IN our last number we called the attention of our readers to the subject of Means, and in a manner somewhat ironical, set forth some of the properties which means is supposed to possess; and for our eulogy we presume our Arminian neighbors will feel themselves greatly obliged. We are not willing, however, as yet to dismiss the subject of means, as we have somewhat further to say on this point, which we will endeavor to do in a more serious manner.
It has been reported by some, and believed by others, that we discard altogether the idea of God’s using means or instruments for the accomplishment of his divine purposes. This charge is gratuitous and untrue. Although we do most positively deny the supposed power or efficacy of humanly invented means to facilitate the salvation of lost sinners, in the manner the doctrine is preached, believed and acted upon at the present day, we most freely admit, and firmly believe, that the all-wise and glorious God has appointed instruments by which he will accomplish his adorable purposes. This truth is clearly taught in the scriptures; but in the examples we shall give the reader will do well to mark the difference between the wisdom of God and the policy of men, in providing and bringing means into requisition. The unskillful management of man, as set forth in our last number, will form a striking contrast to the handiwork of God.
The first example we shall give of God’s using means is that of the salvation of Noah and his family. (See Genesis.) The means made use of on this occasion was an ark; the plan, form and construction of which were. all of God. He that was able to dash a thousand worlds to death at a word, and amidst the general calamity say, “Let Noah and his family be saved,” chose to pursue a different course. No part of the work was left discretionary with Noah, but all must be done agreeably to the divine instruction Noah received from God. The plan of man to save the human race from a devouring deluge was to build a tower whose top would reach to heaven; but the means which God employed to stop the progress of the work of Babel was to go down and confound their language. The train of means which God employed to elevate Joseph, and to humble his ambitious brethren, were such as human wisdom would have thought the most unlikely to succeed. The jealousy of Joseph’s brethren, their envy and hatred, their murderous designs, their avarice and treachery, their selling him into slavery, did not look much like means to bring him into power and subjugate his brethren. The unmerciful Ishmaelites were another link of God’s appointed means; by an all-wise decree they were on the spot at the appointed moment; had they delayed their journey a few moments, Joseph had been no more. But when the murderers saw them, Joseph was raised from the pit and conducted down to Egypt, where he withstood the temptation of his mistress, was falsely accused, unjustly condemned,thrown into prison, miraculously brought forth therefrom, and finally raised to the government of Egypt. Good old Jacob did not seem to understand or like the means which God made use of in this case.
The means which God employed to rid his ancient Israel of a rebellious king was to send an evil spirit with a commission to, Go and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all Ahab’s prophets. These were ordained to persuade him to go and fall at Ramath Gilead; and that by lying to him, and saying that he should go and prosper, and the Lord would deliver Ramath Gilead into his hands. When the beloved Son of God was to fulfill all that was written of him, in law, and prophets, and psalms; wicked men and devils were God’s sword. In many instances we are told by the evangelists of what they did “that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” When but a babe we see the Holy Child chased down to Egypt by cruel persecution; and being called from thence, he turned into a small city, that the scripture might be fulfilled; from the manger to the cross, his life is loaded with reproaches, abuses, blasphemies and insults, and all to preserve the sacred volume inviolate. At length against him both Herod and Pontius Pilate meet, with men of Israel and the Gentiles, “for to do whatsoever (God’s) hand and counsel before determined should be done;” the heathen raged, and the people imagined vain things against the Lord, and against his Christ; yet all these things were God’s chosen instrumentalities for the accomplishment of what his hand and counsel had predestinated. And when the dear disconsolate disciples, on their way to Emmaus, journeyed and were sad, because of what their Lord had done and suffered from the hand. of wicked men find devils, our Lord reproved them, saying, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have written, ought hot Christ to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Heaven had ordained the accomplishment of all these things, and all requisite means for the accomplishment of the end were duly provided.
But ere we close our article on this subject, let us examine the means which God has ordinarily employed to facilitate the spread of the gospel ministry, not the making of ministers, nor the regeneration of souls, but the publication of the gospel. As the heavens are high above the earth, so the ways and thoughts of God do truly transcend the ways and thoughts of man. Let us contrast them. For the spread of what they pall gospel, men form large, popular and moneyed societies, establish permanent funds, call into existence unheard of, unscriptural and uncalled for begging agencies, establish dignified executive boards, &c., to induce by hire or bribery such as are greedy of filthy lucre to enter their field and labor under their ecclesiastical dictation. But how different is the plan of God; the means, if we may call them so, which he employed in the primitive days of his gospel church was to let loose the powers of wicked men and devils upon his dear servants, to persecute, whip, imprison, calumniate and distress them; and he had previously given them directions, “If they make up for you a full purse and a splendid outfit in one city, take it and go as their hirelings to another”? Not exactly so; but these were his words: “If they persecute you in one city, flee unto another.” Such were the means which the all-wise God employed, and so when it became necessary to start them out about their Master’s work, there arose a great persecution, and the saints were scattered, and they that were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. It was persecution, under God, that took Paul to Rome, and John to Patmos for the benefit of the Seven Churches; and persecution has been ever since employed by the great Master in compelling his ministers to traverse the earth with the ministry of the everlasting gospel. But mark! while the enraged Jews were made subservient to the cause of God in wickedly and maliciously persecuting the ministers of Jesus, they themselves had their popular religious preselyting missionaries out in all the land and sea, under good pay and easy circumstances, even as are their successors in the pharisaical crusades of modern times.
Down through the dark ages of Pagan, Papal and Protestant persecution, God has overruled all their rage and malice, and brought it to bear upon his servants in such a manner as to make them the more active in preaching the word of God everywhere. It was persecution in Europe that brought the pioneers of the gospel ministry to our beloved shores; and when they thought to sit unmolested and secure under their gourds, and enjoy that social felicity together for which they had bidden adieu their native countries, and for the enjoyment of which they had crossed the mighty deep, God prepared a worm to gnaw the gourd - it withered, it died. Persecution then arose from the most popular party, (Congregationalists,) and they were scattered and went everywhere as God directed their way in providence.
At some future time, we hope not far distant, we intend to give our readers a more full account of the persecution of some of the first Baptist preachers, who went everywhere preaching the word, when there was no golden wedges or Babylonish garments in the camp to induce hypocrites and nominal professors to reiterate the ancient petition, “Put me, I pray thee, into the priest’s office, that I may have bread.” Our dear brethren in the ministry who have labored in the gospel when Baptist ministers preached at the peril of their lives, when instead of loaves and fishes they were treated with showers of stones, with tar and feathers; and in not a few instances, like old Elder Morse, who preached the gospel laying on his back in a broiling sun, with his feet made fast in the stocks; and when preaching a short time before his death at an association, brushed back his venerable locks and showed the scars and wounds received in the service of Christ – having been stoned while preaching Christ to the people. It was this kind of treatment that often drove the old soldier of the cross from his own fireside to penetrate the newly settled wilderness; and as he went he preached Christ.
When in this manner God had sent and sustained his gospel ministers until he had by them raised up churches throughout our Eastern and Southern States, their enemies, finding that they could not exterminate them from the earth, changed their tone, and said, “Come let us all build together.” They crept in unawares, by peace and by flattery, as Daniel says, and when once in, there was war in the camp; the old veterans of the cross became targets for the new lights to shoot at. Grieved and afflicted, they were by persecution compelled to retire from their flocks, and being scattered, they went everywhere preaching the word, while their ill-fated brethren amalgamated with the Ishmaelitish multitude of new measure converts, were left to go hungry, or like the prodigal, strive to fill themselves with the husks which the swine do eat.
Pastors by this description of means were furnished for the far West; hundreds from Virginia and other States went out to find a peaceful home where the cry of the panther, the growl of the bear, the howling of the wolf, and the yell of the savages, were to them less dreadful than the persecution from which they had retired. Here in the uncultivated wilderness, they little suspected that the dandy cut clergy of the older States would molest them; nor was -there .any danger until they had subdued it, and made it literally a fruitful field - when cities and villages were springing up, and when they had finished the ministry which God had intended by them in these places; then the flood-gates were opened, and their churches were soon inundated with young men from theological schools, who were sent over, not to escape from persecution, but under the patronage of the popular religionists of the East. Like lions let loose, they made it their business to divide and distress the dear people of God in the Great Valley. And even now the struggle is going on; the Pope, the world and the devil are all engaged in furnishing the Mississippi Valley with missionaries of their own manufacturing to supplant the Lord’s ministers; and God is, we doubt not, even now suffering this war to go on, until by the use of these means he will drive his ministers into other destitute parts, and leave in their places ravening wolves to drive out all such as fear the Lord, and tremble at his word.
Finally, we write that we do know, and testify what we have seen; aye, and felt too, when we assure our readers that the ordinary means or instrumentalities which the Lord employs to remove his servants from one place to another is persecution in some form or other. When the Jews accounted themselves (by their conduct) unworthy of eternal life, ho! the apostle turned to the Gentiles; for so had God commanded. Let down from a window in a basket, to avoid the murderous enemies of the cross, the apostle fled to another field of labor. But oh, how different with anti-christ’s hirelings! Note the scores of young and old clergymen in almost every city in our States panting for the work; panting for the salvation of souls; panting for a call, an outfit, aye, panting for a respectable salary: but yet they stand idle in the market-place because no man has hired them; and yet their benevolent bowels yearn over the perishing millions whom they say are dropping into hell for want of their labors of love, while their sense of the incalculable worth of immortal souls often makes them ejaculate this prayer to Mammon, their god:
Oh for a thousands pounds a year,
That I may go and preach,
And loud proclaim to every ear
What I delight to teach!
Oh that our missionary board
More agents would employ!
And send them forth, the dust to hoard,
How I would leap for joy!
Oh that the halcyon days were come,
When all, both far near,
Would bring their earthly wealth, as one,
And say, “Lo! it is here.”
Oh what a precious heap of gold,
All corban’d to the Lord!
For this my service shall be sold,
And I will preach the word.
My generous hands and liberal soul
Of cash shall grasp a store;
Then will I preach from pole to pole,
And cry, Give more! give more!
But oh! how painful to my eyes,
The cash comes in so slow;
I fear they’ll all, to their surprise,
Sink down to endless wo.
Say, honest reader, is not this the very spirit of modern benevolence? Surely these are the men who claim an exclusive right to the title of benevolence. Persecution never did, and we are confident it never will, drive them into the work; they had much rather lounge in the cities than go moneyless into the field of actual service to labor. But the ministers of the Lord go at his bidding, and when they return, they return as did the seventy, saying, “We lacked nothing, even devils were subject to us through thy name.”
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
October 21, 1836.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 327 – 334