“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17-18).”
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and flat after the tradition which he received of us (II Thessalonians 3:6).”
If in the apostles’ day the members of the primitive churches had need of solemn admonitions contained in the foregoing words, how great must be the necessity of carefully attending to them now that those days and times are upon us of which the apostles have forewarned us, in which “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (I Timothy 4:1).”
The rebukes of the Almighty are shaking the world and causing the thrones of earth to totter to their fall, making the deep to boil like a pot, and the sea like a pot of ointment; and while the organized powers of antichrist are filled with consternation and amazement, and “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitors of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12:12).”
Even in this time of severe rebuke and blasphemy, the church of the living God, known as the Old School or Primitive Baptists, continues steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship; and so shall she forever continue to stand; for “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken (Isaiah 33:20).” Like a mighty rock in the midst of the ocean, assailed on every side by angry waves and foaming billows which, unable to move her, only recoil upon themselves, foaming out their own shame. This day of trial is designed, however, to make the sinners in Zion afraid; and fearfulness to surprise the hypocrites who have, like the birds of the air, been lodging in her branches. The fiery trials which have no power to consume or harm the legitimate members of the Redeemer’s kingdom shall purge her of those who are, and have been as spots in her feasts of charity, feasting themselves without fear; whose god is their belly, whose glory is their shame, who mind earthly things.
Although the church herself is immovably and immutably established in the apostles’ doctrine, and firmly built upon their foundation, she has always been infested with carnal professors and graceless hypocrites which are sure to show themselves in the times of trial and severe persecution. Of all this the apostles have spoken distinctly, and to their admonitions we do well that we take heed.
In the two passages at the head of this article the apostle uses in the one, entreaty, in the other, authority. Let us examine them. This great apostle to the Gentiles, endued with power from on high, speaking by the infallible inspiration of the Holy Ghost, yet in the tender, affectionate and melting manner which cannot fail to draw a response from every heart in which God has written his law said, “I beseech you, brethren.” What solicitude for their welfare, what paternal tenderness, and what undisguised anxiety is expressed in this appeal. Vested as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, he had authority to command; but in this case he entreats them as brethren, to mark certain characters which were among them, whose movements were highly prejudicial to the order, peace and harmony of the church of God. While all the admonitions of this apostle had been against evil surmisings. or distrust of brethren, there were then in the churches (as there should afterwards be) those in whom undue confidence should not be reposed. Those who were to be marked and avoided are particularly described, as “them which cause divisions among you.” That is, among brethren. The truth is calculated to unite, consolidate and bind together the brotherhood; but those who cause divisions and offenses among the children of God cannot be worthy of the confidence of the saints.
Striking examples of those who cause divisions and offenses among the children of God were found troubling and bewitching the churches of Galatia and Antioch. The introduction of legal rights and forms, which were abolished, produced division, alienation and strife; and such as were drawn from a correct course were made to offend, by transgressing the laws of Christ and the rules of the church of God. And all such divisions and offenses were contrary to the doctrine which these brethren of Paul had learned by the teaching of the word and Spirit, and under the ministry of the apostles. These disorganizers and troublesome characters are to be marked. But how? We do not understand the apostle to urge the brethren to mutilate their bodies, or asperse their characters, or inflict any injury upon them; but to observe the marks which such characters always have upon them; as they might mark a wolf by his propensity to devour the flock, or a fox by his sly and crafty tricks and propensity to spoil the vine of her tender grapes. The marks with which the apostle himself has branded them are a pattern for us. The marks are these: they cause divisions contrary to the instructions which the saints have learned of the apostle; causing some at least to disregard the authority of the apostles, and thereby causing offenses to be committed by those who should strictly adhere to the teachings which they have received from the word and Spirit of the Lord. To mark them then is to closely and carefully observe their general characteristics, and the object of marking them is that we may avoid them, and warn others to beware of and avoid them.
But in his admonition to the Thessalonians, he speaks with the authority of his apostolic power. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” This injunction, being imperative and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, demands profound respect and implicit obedience; it cannot be ignored or neglected without disobedience to Christ: for the command is issued to his saints in his name, and consequently by his authority. Not only is it given in the name of Jesus, but in his name as our Lord. To disobey then is to deny him as our Lord, and to dispute his authority over us. We cannot maintain our allegiance to him as our Lord and disregard what he has commanded us by his authorized apostles, for they are endued with authority from heaven to proclaim his laws in the churches. And what they bind on earth is bound in heaven. In binding this command, all the apostles are represented. “Now we command you, brethren.” They are all inspired by the same Spirit, and endowed with the same authority, and all agree in teaching us to observe all things, namely, whatsoever our Lord Jesus Christ has commanded them. See their commission in Matthew 28:20. All the injunctions, instructions or traditions of the apostles contained in the New Testament are of the same binding authority on all the saints, and all the saints are not only commanded in the name and by the authority of their Lord to observe and strictly obey them, but they are also by the same supreme authority commanded to mark, avoid and withdraw themselves from all such as do not love, honor and obey the same rules. The traditions of the apostles mean the teachings and instructions which they have received from the Lord Jesus and in his name enjoined upon the saints as the rule by which they are to be governed in all things. All those who profess to be disciples of Christ, or Christians, and fail to conform in doctrine or practice to their unerring rule are, by the apostles, denounced as unruly, and vain talkers and deceivers, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. (See Titus 1:10,11.) “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).” Christians are subject to infirmities and weaknesses which this divine rule requires the saints to bear with: a brother is not to be made an offender for a word inconsiderately spoken, nor are the lame, so long as their lameness may be cured, to be turned out of the way; let them rather be healed. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations (Romans 14:1).” The strong should bear the infirmities of the weak. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” All this forbearance, patience, sympathy and tenderness is enjoined upon the saints by the law of Christ, which is our only authorized rule. But these lenient instructions are not to be so construed as to apply then to those whom we are commanded in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to mark, avoid and withdraw from. A child may be exceedingly weak in the faith; a mere babe, and from very weakness, unable to comprehend some of the cardinal principles of our faith, or to appreciate the full bearing of all the laws of the kingdom; but still so far as such weaklings are taught they show a love for truth, and desire to walk in all the order of the house of God; these are weak enough to doubt, but not strong enough to dispute. Those who not only doubt or disbelieve the truth, but also dispute it as far as it is presented, “Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (II Timothy 3:4-7).” These must not be received, for they are not those who are weak in the faith; but are given to doubtful disputations. And, as our text informs us, “For they that are such [whatever their pretensions, or even forms of godliness may be] serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
Those honest, well-meaning Christians who are sufficiently simple to be charmed by their good words, and captivated by their fair speeches, are allured from the footsteps of the flock, and from the laws and ordinances of the church of God, and drawn to follow her whose “house is the way to hell (Proverbs 7:27).”
A steadfast continuance in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship like that of the primitive Baptists (Acts 2:42) will subject the saints to reproach and bring down on them the virulent opposition and envenomed malediction of those who constantly lie in wait to deceive them. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12).” The rules laid down by the inspired apostles for the government of the church and people of God are subject to no amendments or modifications, suspensions or changes of any kind, for any purpose, or at any period while time shall endure. Times and circumstances with us may change in regard to the things of nature; but the ordinances of heaven are unalterable. The Scriptures by which we all must be judged will recognize none as loyal subjects of the King of Zion who do not adhere to the instructions of the holy apostles, just as they were delivered by them to the saints, and just as we find them recorded in the New Testament. The church of Christ must throughout all ages be distinguished and identified by her strict conformity to the laws; all the laws of the kingdom as laid down by the apostles. Then, and only then, are we Christ’s disciples if we do whatsoever he has commanded us.
So far from intimating to us that a time might come when the saints should have less occasion to conform strictly to all their instructions, they faithfully advised us of the terrible apostasies of these last days, in which some should depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. “Therefore,” says the apostle, “we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” Hence we infer that there is no time, either ancient or modern, in which the saints should let them slip. In the apostles’ day it would not do, and certainly now in these last days, in which evil men and seducers have waxed worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, how shall we escape their pollutions if we neglect this great salvation?
We are the most earnest in the reiteration of these apostolic admonitions, because we see these evil days are even now upon us, and some have been turned away from the truth and are turned unto fables. Simple souls have been strangely beguiled, and unstable ones have departed from the faith which they once professed. Even of our own selves have some risen up and spoken perverse things, and have drawn away disciples after them. Having ourself been in the field over fifty years, we have never witnessed a time in which so many disorganizers were engaged in perverting the right way of the Lord, or so zealously working. Some who had formerly been held in our fellowship, confidence and affections, as sound and useful ministers and brethren, are now literally creeping into houses and leading captive silly women and silly men also, and doing all in their power to disorganize and break up the churches, disregarding the laws of Christ, and defying his authority which he has vested in his church. Many dear brethren with whom we have stood side by side through many a storm of persecution for the truth’s sake, have received their discharge from the warfare; but very few of our early contemporaries yet remain in the field, and we feel assured that soon the cold grave with her bars shall close upon our mortal body, and our tongue shall be silent in death; and our pen will cease to write and our type to print the solemn convictions of our heart; but even then this admonition to our kindred in Christ shall survive us, and it is our prayer that God may incline the hearts of his dear children to read, reflect and heed these solemn admonitions, so far as they are in harmony with his word and Spirit. May God give them light to discern, and firmness to mark, avoid, and withdraw fromall such as cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which they have learned from the apostles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the “Blessed and only Potentate” to rule and govern his people, and who is worthy of all reverence, obedience, homage and immortal honor, world without end. Amen.
April 15, 1867.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 8 – 12