Brother Beebe: - Please give your views on Romans 13:11, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
Eliz. Brice. Junius, N.Y., January 18,1862.
REPLY: - Our Redeemer said of the Pharisees and Sadducees, "Ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (Matthew 16:3) But the apostle implies that the saints addressed in our text know the times. There are times in the spiritual kingdom, as well as in nature, for every purpose of God to be accomplished. In nature there is seed time and harvest, summer and winter, day and night, and as the wise man has said, There is a time for all things under the sun: a time to be born, and a time to die: a time to sleep, and a time to awake: a time to be merry, and a time to mourn. So in the spiritual kingdom, everything is appropriate in its appointed season. When the Bridegroom is present is not the time to fast; but when he is absent then the children of the bride-chamber shall fast. The time indicated for the church of God to buckle on the armor and confront the enemy, is very inappropriate for her to sleep. Paul says to the Thessalonians, "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Thess. 5:1-9) The time for sleeping, drunkenness and rebellion, was with us when under the power of darkness, before we were translated into the marvelous light of the kingdom of Christ; but now in our manifestation as the children of the light, it does not become us to sleep, as do others. When christians do sleep, in a spiritual sense, it is with them a time of darkness, as their fleshly powers are carnal and worldly, so the powers of darkness on them produce drowsiness, inactivity, stupor and insensibility, in regard to the things of the kingdom. All this Paul says the saints know perfectly. Therefore, knowing the time, they were aware that with them it was high time to awake out of sleep. When men sleep, their mind wanders at random in baseless visions and unreal dreams. So christians, when at ease in Zion, layoff their armor and become vain in their imaginations, and their minds are with the fool's eyes, traversing the ends of the earth. When we have taken on us the name of Christ, have renounced the hidden things of darkness, it is time to awake, to watch and be sober, and never be caught sleeping on our post.
The admonitions given to the saints in this chapter show that the saints are surrounded with manifold temptations, and liable to be overcome of evil; whereas, they are exhorted to overcome evil with good. In their relations to the world, in the revolutions and changes of earthly governments, let every soul be subject to the higher powers, as children to parents, servants to masters, as citizens to rulers, knowing the powers that be are ordained of God, and we cannot resist them without resisting the ordinance of God; for, he says, in the third verse, "Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil." "Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." After setting forth many of the obligations which rest on christians, he says, "If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." He then adds, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." From the connection we infer that the saints in regard to some of these obligations, had been sleeping, dreaming, or inattentive, if not directly violating these precepts, they had neglected them, or had failed to discharge them with that degree of assiduity and promptitude which their importance demanded. As an incentive to vigilance, the apostle not only shows the liability of the saints to fall into temptation, and be drawn into present difficulties, but he urges the approximation of the day of the Lord, or the day of their deliverance from all the cares, duties, responsibilities, trials, vexations and turmoils of this mortal life.
"For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." The term salvation in this text, means deliverance. The apostle says, Rom. 8:19, "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God;" and in the same connection adds, "And not only they, [the whole creation] but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen, is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth ye yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." Thus the salvation which is nearer than when we believed, is that wherein we are saved by hope, the redemption of our body from a mortal to an immortal state; when death shall be swallowed up of victory; when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall be clothed in immortality. That happy period, that glorious day is drawing near, and is now nearer than when we believed; that is, it is nearer now than it was when we first became believers. You have progressed thus far in your pilgrimage; you are thus far nearer to your great deliverance, "the night is far spent;" your struggles, toils and labors will soon be over; "the day is at hand," the perfect day, when clouds shall no more obscure the Sun, nor hide from you the refulgent glories of your inheritance above. This being the case, "Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provisions for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N.Y:, February 1,1862.