We have no reason to doubt that every incident which God in his holy providence allows to transpire, however oppositely designed by the wrath of men, or malice of devils, must ultimately, under the gracious hand of God, result in favor of Zion: "We know that all things do work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to his purpose." Nevertheless we read of a time to favor Zion; yea, a set time, as appointed and ordained by our heavenly Father, in a peculiar manner to result in her favor.
Although in a general and unrestricted sense, all things do operate for her good, from the setting up of empires, to the numbering of the hairs of our heads; from the creation of worlds to the falling of a sparrow, yet there are many things brought to pass which are particularly afflicting and trying to the saints of the Most High. God’s people are chosen in the furnace of afflictions, and in the wisdom and goodness of God it is ordained that "All who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution." And we are further informed that the redeemed, blood-washed saints shall come up out of great tribulations, and also that unto them it is given on the behalf of Christ, that they shall not only believe on his name, but also that they shall suffer for his sake. Many, says the inspired servant of God, are the afflictions of the righteous, but God delivereth him out of them all.
Among all the afflictions common to all the saints while they dwell in earthly tabernacles of mortal flesh, perhaps none are so severely felt as their own inbred corruptions, the sense of ingratitude to that God whose goodness and mercy has followed them all their days, that they come so far short of what they sincerely desire in their obedience, love and devotion to that blessed Savior who bore and carried them all the days of old, who gave himself for them, who bore their griefs, carried their sorrows, and on whom the chastisement of their peace was laid, and with whose stripes they are healed. A sense of his unparalleled love, his unexampled mercy and distinguishing grace, more than all the terrors of his judgments, leads them to mourn their depravity, and to repent in dust and ashes before him.
The world with it cares, sorrows, bereavements, fascinations and vanities, prove, as the wise man has said, a vexation of spirit to them. While in the world, they have to do with the world, but O, the thorns and thistles they have to encounter. As the disciples of Christ the world hates them, because they are not of the world, and because they are called to renounce the world, the flesh and the devil. They know that the world hates them because it hated their divine Lord and Master before it hated them. They shall be hated also of all men, for the namesake of their Redeemer. Nor is this virulence manifested alone by that portion of the world known as avowed enemies to christianity, but by far the more bitterly from those who under the guise of a profession of godliness, engage against the truth. None are so cruel, so malignant and so excessively hostile to the people of God, as those who claim to be doing God service when they stain their guilty hands with the blood of martyrs. None can so effectually plunge a dagger under the fifth rib, as they who conceal their weapon under a cloak, and take the saints by the beard to kiss them, saying, "Art thou in health, my brother?" "Beware of men who come unto you in sheep’s clothing; but inwardly they are ravening wolves; by their fruits ye shall know them." From this warning admonition of our Lord are we not bound to scrutinize closely before we listen to those who come crying out against our brethren as heretics? Take them on their back track, and see if we can find no marks of blood produced by their scattering and devouring of the sheep and lambs which have fallen in their way. In their external appearance they may seem to be much concerned for the peace of Zion, for the purity of the faith and order of the church, and they may manifest much zeal for ferreting out heresy, and exposing the wickedness of others, and at the same time they may be inwardly ravening wolves. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Are they following the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another? Are they in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves? Do they show a consciousness that they may themselves be tempted? Are there no instances to be found of men who can hold in their fellowship those who have by the authority of Christ been put away from the church of God for crimes of adultery, of lying, of bearing false witness against a neighbor, for slander, and other kinds of immorality, and at the same time labor for years to destroy the characters, reputation and usefulness of those who have always maintained a christian walk and deportment in the sight of all men? Again, can no instances be found of a man, professing the greatest concern for the peace, prosperity and welfare of the church of God, professing to be regenerated in soul, in body and in spirit, who at the same time has been twice excluded from the church of Christ, who has abandoned for a long time his helpless wife and family, and who has advised an aged parent to quit preaching and to engage in speculating in Missouri lands? If there be any who bear this description of fruits, are they to be allowed to rend the flock of Christ, because they wear sheep’s clothing, or because they make such solemn protestations of their own purity, and so loudly cry out against the imperfections of those who already feel themselves bowed down to the dust under a constant sense of their own vileness? If there are no such cases, then it is well for Zion, but if there are, let the admonition of our Lord be heeded, and beware of them.
A disregard for the instruction and admonitions of our Shepherd and Bishop, must assuredly increase the distress and affliction of the people of God.
Still another cause of affliction to Zion is found when the Lord withholds from her the outpourings of his Spirit, and such seasons of refreshing as can only come from his presence, when the ways of Zion mourn, and but few come to her solemn feasts. But still are we not warranted in the belief that all that God permits to afflict his dear saints is working under his mighty hand for good, and for his ultimate glory, since
"Death and hell can do no more
Than what our Father please?"
But be not discouraged, there is a brighter point at which your eyes shall yet behold Jerusalem a quiet dwelling and a secure resting place.
"God will not always chide,
But when his red is felt,
His strokes are lighter than our wrongs,
And fewer than our guilt."
There are set times to favor Zion, and in many of her departments the set time has already come. In many of his churches great peace and harmony abounds, and God is evidently calling his own sheep by name, and delivering them from the power of darkness, and translating them into the kingdom of his dear Son. We recently attended the Lexington Association, in this State: one of her churches reported twenty-six joyful converts added within a few weeks past, by baptism, and other churches have also been greatly refreshed and favored with additions. In this vicinity we have witnessed some gracious indications of God’s special favor which he bears to Zion. In the Middletown and Wallkill, and in the New Vernon Church, several have been added by baptism and on profession of faith, and others have given good evidence that they have lately experienced the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, who seem inclined to follow their Lord in obedience to his precepts and examples. In many other places, Hopewell, Kingwood, in New Jersey, as well as in other States, the voice of the Son of God is heard, and they that hear do live.
Middletown, N. Y.,
September 15, 1858.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 137 - 141