“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves; but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The solemn and impressive admonitions to the saints with which the New Testament abounds, are never out of season to the children of God, while here in the flesh; for they are continually exposed to temptations, and their carnal nature is as sensitive and resentful of real or of imaginary injuries as they were before they were brought to know and love the Lord. If the spirit of life and holiness which God has graciously implanted in their hearts had destroyed all the corruptions of their depraved nature and purified their fleshly powers, they would not have to lament with Paul, that in their flesh there dwelleth no good thing; nor would they find a law in their members warring against the law of their mind, bringing them into subjection to the law of sin which is in their members. But although these admonitions are always seasonable to christians, there are times when our exposure to temptations render them more peculiarly appropriate and indispensable. When christians enjoy the smiles of the Redeemer, and his love is shed abroad in their hearts, so that they feel willing to make any and every sacrifice for the benefit of their brethren, they cannot so well appreciate the admonition of the apostle against biting and devouring one another, as when the church is involved in discord. The indwelling Spirit of Christ, if we are in possession of it, will tend to assimilate us to his image, and if we have not his Spirit, we are none of his. The corruptions of our carnal nature would make us as we once were, hateful, and hating one another, but if we are led by the Spirit of Christ, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Poor, fallen, depraved nature is, in all respects, opposite to the Spirit of Christ, but the grace of God is given to conform us to his image, that he may be the first-born among many brethren. How is the description given of the condition of man in the Scriptures, of all men, in their alienation from God? There is no exception. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:10-18) And in the ninth verse of the same chapter, the inspired writer demands, ‘What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” This being our nature, as the fallen children of Adam, and that nature still retained in us after our new birth, and found in every saint warring against the Spirit which God has given them in regeneration, how important it is that they should heed the admonition given them, to crucify the old man with its affections and lusts, to keep their body under, and deny themselves of all unrighteousness and worldly lusts, and that they live soberly, righteously and godly in the present world. Circumstanced thus, the text at the head of this article has great importance in pointing out to the saints what should be their constant aim. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” The very words of the admonition imply that it is not at all times possible to live in peace with all men, for it is also written, “If any man will live godly in Christ Jesus, he shall suffer persecution.” But still the words clearly imply that in living peaceably with our fellow-men, there is something in us, as saints, to be called into requisition. Another apostle says, Let none of you suffer as an evil doer, or as busy-bodies in other men’s matters. When strife and discord prevail, and the peace of christians is invaded by its prevalence, let the christian see to it that he is not in whole nor in part the occasion of it. When invaded by wars and persecution, we are to see that we are acting under the Spirit and example of him who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; that we recompense to no man, (whether saint or sinner, friend or foe) evil for evil; that we avenge not ourselves, and that we feed our enemy if he hungers, and give him drink if he be thirsty; and leave vengeance and retribution where it rightfully belongs, in the hands of God. This is the course enjoined on all the saints, and if we do not pursue this course, we do not as much as lieth in us, live peaceably with all men.
Paul, in writing to Timothy, exhorted, first of all, that supplications and prayers, intercessions and giving thanks, be made for all men, including all rulers who are in authority over us, for this very end, ‘That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (I Tim. 2:2,3)
If in the foregoing remarks we have not mistaken nor misstated the Spirit of Christ as developed in christianity, it must be conceded that none can sustain a legitimate claim to the sacred name of christian who is not governed by the spirit and letter of these admonitions. But if we admit the correctness of this proposition, we virtually ignore the prevailing religion of the present time in our country, if not throughout the world, as false, hypocritical and anti-christian. Apply the rule expressed in our text, with justice to the line, and judgment to the plummet, and reject all professors of godliness as hypocrites, who do not, to the extent of their power, live peaceably with all men, and how few, weighed in this balance of the sanctuary, would not be found wanting. The truth is, all false religion has always been cruel and oppressive, from Cain to the present day, while, on the other hand, the religion of Jesus Christ has as uniformly been marked by its spirit of “Peace on earth and good well toward men,” yea, to all men, enemies as well as friends, sinners as well as saints. As the great Author of all true and vital religion is holy and harmless, and as the wisdom of his government is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy, and by its excellency demonstrating its heavenly origin, so these excellencies must forever characterize those who possess the Spirit of Christ, in the absence of which we are none of his.
Those who are born of God and led by his Spirit do love the saints with an unfeigned love, and above all things desire to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. But they not only love the saints in the bowels of Christ Jesus with pure love fervently, but they desire the best good of all their fellow-beings. Even their enemies share in their benevolent sympathies, and they are heard to pray for them that despitefully use and persecute them, and often reiterate the words of their divine Redeemer, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” But how is it with those of whom the apostle Jude says, “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain”? Do they, while thirsting for the blood of their fellow-men, give evidence that they have been with Jesus? or that they have learned of him who is meek and lowly, who came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them? Did Christ, or any of his apostles in their preaching, excite the passions of their hearers, and urge them to shed each other’s blood? Did Paul, Peter or the beloved John, take up contributions of Sharpe’s rifles, or Colt’s revolvers, to arm an excited rabble for the work of violence and blood? Were their pulpits used to arouse the elements of strife, hatred and war? If such a course were compatible with the spirit of the gospel, why were they not so engaged? Were there no slaves held as chattled property by the Romans, by the Jews, and even by the members of their own communion? Most certainly there were, but they had no commission from the Prince of Peace to assail the institution, nor in any other way to mingle in the political strife of the nations of the earth, but were to live peaceably, as much as in them lay, with all men. They were themselves frequently persecuted most cruelly, whipped, imprisoned, disfranchised, robbed, stoned, tortured and put to death by their enemies, whose religion, like that of modern days, could feast on blood. But in all this they adhered strictly to the admonitions of our text, without making any attempt to avenge themselves, much less to excite brother to stain his hands in brother’s blood.
The abomination that maketh desolate, spoken of by the prophet, even now standeth where it ought not. If, for the defence of nations, war, as a necessity, be unavoidable, the place appropriate for its consideration is in the government of the world, not in the house of God, or in that which claims to be the church or temple of the Lord. When, therefore, the sacred name of christianity and the altar of the professed church of God are desecrated by the war whoop, and prayers are offered up to speed the cannon ball, and to hurry on the work of slaughter, the Deity, whom they profess to invoke, is insulted, and his holy name blasphemed. We could give many specimens of such heaven-daring blasphemies which have been copied from the lips of our blood-thirsty clergy, but such blasphemies are so common that they have become familiar to all, and our design is only now to hold up to our readers the contrast between that kind of religion which feasts on blood, which delights in murder, and the holy religion of the Son of God.
Our design in this article is especially for the benefit of the children of God. When the abomination that maketh desolate standeth in the holy place (usurping the holy altars of religion), then let him that readeth understand, let him take timely warning, to touch not, taste not, handle not, to be in no way or shape involved in exciting men to deeds of carnage; but rather, so far as we have opportunity, let us display the banner of love, and, as much as lieth in us, live peaceably with all men. Our warfare is not, as christians, against flesh and blood; our holy religion forbids that we shall injure the persons or the property of our fellow-men, directly or indirectly, by our influence or example. Let our prayers ascend to God, who ruleth the raging elements, that we may be delivered from the horrors of war, and learn to beat our swords into plow-shares and our spears into pruning-hooks, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
September 1, 1861.
Elder Gilbert Beebe,
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 44 - 49