“Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.”
There is an element in the earthly nature of mankind to fret and feel indignant when our own peculiar views are ignored or even criticized by others, and although it is as impossible for all to think and believe like as it is for all to look alike, and although the convictions of our minds are involuntary and beyond our control, still, we are prone to become provoked at, and impatient with those who differ in their judgment and conclusions, from what seems clear and fully demonstrated to our minds. This element or propensity of our nature is generally perceptible among all classes of the human race, to a greater or less degree, in regard to their favorite or long cherished traditions. In regard to things of this world, statesman will differ in politics, and Physicians on medical science, and all classes will dispute and sometimes abuse those who cross their tracks or fail to agree with their favorite theories. But by far the greatest sensitiveness and the least forbearance, and the most fearful persecutions that have ever crimsoned the earth with human gore, have been produced by conflicting sentiments on religious subjects. From the days of Cain the intolerant spirit of religious bigotry has marked and stained all the pages of history. The wicked and murderous spirit of Cain was of Satan. Cain was an active religionists; but his religion was not acceptable unto God. His offering was of the fruits of the earth, and of the labors of his own hands, unauthorized by divine command, and unaccompanied by that faith which is the fruit of the Spirit, and the gift of God, without which it is not possible to please God.
The spirit of God which rules in the hearts of all who worship God in spirit and in truth, is the very opposite of that spirit which works and the children of disobedience, and which has in all ages characterized the religion of the world. The Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, dwells in all who are born of the Spirit, and so far as they are controlled by it they manifest the meekness of him who when he was reviled, reproached, persecuted, mocked and even crucified, reviled not again. Jesus said to those who labor and are heavy laden, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lonely inn heart: for ye shall find rest unto your souls.” – Matt. xi. 29. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast of mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” – Isa. lvii. 20, 21. How wide the contrast between those who cannot rest, for whom there is no rest, and those of whom it is written, “Great peace have they which love by law; and nothing shall offend them.” – Psa. cxix. 165. The spirit of meekness and humility which is born from above, cannot fail to love that law which God has written in the heart of all his covenant people, because it is the law of the spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus, and he dwells in them as the hope of glory, and is fulfilled by his love which she has shed abroad in them; abiding in him they abiding love, for God is love. – John iv. 16.
Now, although everyone who was born of God is a recipient of his spirit, and in that spirit have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, still they are while here in flesh, be set with many trials and temptations, being still in an earthly tabernacle of flesh, which is born of the flesh, and which retains its opposition to the spirit of holiness, and still requires to be vigilantly watched, denied, kept under and crucified. If this were not so, why are the saints admonish to fret not, to be not envious at the prosperity of the wicked? Surely we can not believe that any spirit which is given us from above can require to be denied, resisted or crucified. But, if our experience is in harmony with that of Paul, we shall find, (and without much searching) another law, spirit, or predominating propensity in our members warring against the law of our mind, bringing us into captivity to the law of sin which is in our members. With their mind, those who have the mind of Christ, serve the law of God, while with their flesh they serve the law of sin.
It is on account of these conflicting elements of different parentage and birth, which are found in all who are born of the flesh and also born of God, that they are so frequently and constantly admonished to put off the old man with his affections and lusts, and to put on the new men which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” – Rom. viii. 6-10. The indwelling of Christ has not changed our body from sin to righteousness, nor from death in Adam, to life in Christ, for the body is still dead because of sin, although the spirit which is given us is life because of righteousness. The same mortality, depravity and sin that we inherit from Adam in our mortal bodies, still remains until our change shall come. Therefore, “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die;” for the body is “the body of this death.” “But if ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live;” for the spirit is life because of righteousness. “But if the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by [or because of, as in the margin] his spirit that dwelleth in you.” – Rom. viii. 11. The distinction between the two elements or natures of which every christian is composed while waiting for their change to come, is clearly and unmistakably demonstrated by the inspired record of eternal truth. The body is mortal, a body of death, held in bonds of corruption until mortality shall be swallowed up of life, and death in victory. It is cheering to be assured that the same spirit that raised up the crucified body of our Lord from the dead shall also, or in like manner, quicken our mortal bodies, change and fashion them like his glorious body, and deliver them from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. As Jesus our Lord, in his resurrection from the dead by the glory of the Father, is the first begotten from the dead, and the first-born among many brethren, even so the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has begotten all his chosen generation to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, two and inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are capped by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed at the last time. 1 Peter i. 2-5; Col. i. 15 and 18; Rom. viii. 29.
But to return to the admonition, “Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like grass and weather as the green herb.” The saints are exhorted to commit their way unto the Lord, and trust in him. In patient submission to bear all the trials, afflictions, reproaches and persecutions that God in his infinite wisdom in goodness sees good to call us to encounter while here in the flesh, knowing as we do that he is able to sustain us while in the conflict, and deliver us as soon as shall be for our good and his glory.
We think it will be admitted by all experienced christians that the most troublesome enemies they are called to encounter while in the flesh are found in our own earthly natures. The cruel shafts of bitter enemies without, persecutions, prisons, stripes, and even martyrdom have been joyfully welcomed when the cheering presence of the Lord has been realized to comfort and support, and
“Prisons have palaces proved
When Jesus has dwell with them there.”
Why then should christians fret, or yield to discontent?
“What though the prince of darkness frown
And vent the fury of his spite?
Eternal chains confine him down
To fiery deeps in endless night.”
Above all things, why should we being grew with those who differ with us in their religious convictions? They do not, they cannot differ more widely from our views on religious subjects then we differ from them in their views. If we’re right and they’re wrong, we surely have the best of it, and much greater reason for humility and gratitude to God for the gift of greater light. And, on the other hand, if they are right, and we are in error, no amount of vituperation can change the fact. It cannot be denied that the christians have an aspiring element in the fleshly nature which sometimes tense them to strive for the mastery. This element is sly and deceptive and needs to be closely watched. He that thinks he stands is admonish to take heed lest he should fall. It is not wise for the most proficient in gifted in the knowledge of the truth to flatter himself that he knows all that is worth knowing, or that wisdom will die with him. The Lord’s people while here below our pupils in the school of Christ, and all of Zion’s children shall be taught of the Lord, and are now being taught of God; but none of them have as yet learned all that is to be known of God and of the things of his spirit, nor can the obtained that state until that which is in part shall be done away, then shall we know even as we are known and see as we are seen. To accomplish this the cap spirit is given with the promise that he shall lead the disciples of Christ into all truth.
We would by no means overlook or underrate the admonitions so often repeated in the New Testament to “Stand fast and the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free,” and two contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints, and as witnesses for God and truth to boldly and fearlessly “Speak that we do know, and testified that we have seen;” but in fighting the good fight faith, we must observe the apostle’s instruction to Timothy, “If a man strive for the masteries, yet he is not crowned except he strive lawfully,” bill And in the striving lawfully, he says, “ Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane in vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a canker;” &c. “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they gender strife. And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who were taken captive by him at his will.” – 2 Tim. ii. 15-26.
Is it not to be feared that many are lured into the snare of Satan and captivated by him, by an intemperate zeal in what they are tempted to believe is a commendable contention for the truth, forgetful that the truth is to be spoken in love, and instruction to the erring in meekness, and that the truth itself may be held, or contended for in unrighteousness? How important it is that we try the spirits by which we as well as others are actuated, whether they be of God. The dear disciples of the Lamb once felt resentful, and asked permission to pray for fire to punish those who had treated the Lord with indignity, that Jesus rebuke them, and said, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” – Luke ix. 54, 56.
The ministers of Christ and all the saints are bound by their allegiance to their King to oppose error in all its multiform phases, whether it be found in themselves, their brethren, or in the common enemies of the cross of Christ. But while we oppose error by the exhibition of truth, we should beware lest we allow our fleshly passions to predominate, and betray us into a frame of self confidence or vain glorying. We should not forget the example of Michael the Archangel, who Wen contending with the devil, and disputing about the body of Moses, instead of bringing against him a railing accusation, said, The Lord rebuke thee. – Jude 9. We are not to avenge a ourselves, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” – Rom. xii. 19.
It is not for the saints of God to fret because of the evil doers, it is the natural course of all the children of Adam, since sin into the world, every imagination of the thoughts of their heart is only evil continually. This is no less power own condition by nature than it is of those who live and die in their sins, and if we have been washed from our pollution in the cleansing blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, quickened and born of his spirit, and as a fruit of that spirit made to know and love the truth, we have no cause for boasting, for we know that it is God who is made us to differ thus from the most hardened and depraved of mankind. “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” does this a four day ground for those to whom he has made known, as vessels of his mercy whom he had afore prepared unto glory, to exult or to be envious against those who seem to prosper in their abominations? The spirit of God in our hearts will humble us under his mighty hand, and teach us to commit our way unto the Lord, and trust in him at all times and under all circumstances, and to say, with the poet,
“It was all of his grace we were brought to obey,
While others were suffered to go
The road which by nature we chose as our way,
Which leads to the regions of woe.
Then give all the glory to his holy name,
To him all the glory belongs;
Be ours the high joy he still to sound forth his fame,
In crown him in each of our songs.”
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.,
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 12.
June 15, 1881.