While brother Dickens seems glad that I was a little more explicit in my view of Matthew xviii. 8, 9, in my reply to him, than I was in my remarks to Elder W. W. Polk in the Sums for Nov. 15th, 1905, he yet fails to understand how I can say the Jewish nation was the hand, fool and eye of the apostles without joining the world or unbelievers to the church. I am glad, however, of his confidence: that he does not believe I intend to do so, but he says if he understands language I certainly have done so. Did the Lord mean to join believers and unbelievers together when he said to the church, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate”! Certainly brother Dickens will say, No. Then neither do I when I use the term “cutoff,” if cut off means to separate. There must have been some connection between believers and unbelievers, or (he Lord would not have said to believers, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate;” coming out was the separation or cutting off.
When I associate the apostles with the Jewish nation, it is not in the sense of christian union, but national union; that nation was the hand and foot in the sense of power by which the apostles as men the seed of Abraham and members of that nation, moved and acted: “The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.” From a legal standpoint they were the eye because in a sense they had the oversight of all who heard Moses read in that day.
Christ himself was subject to the law; he was not made above the law, but under the law of sin and death, consequently the whole law had dominion over him as a man, he being the seed of Abraham. He was obedient in all things, even unto death, the death of the cross, therefore he fulfilled the law in every jot and tittle, magnified it and made it honorable.
Our nation, in the same sense, is our hand, foot and eye; it supports us in the sense of strength, it acts for us, it sees for us. Brother Dickens says he wants to notice a few things in my reply to him and weigh them by the meaning of language and a “thus saith the Lord.” This is his privilege; no man should write or preach who is not willing that what he says should be investigated.
Brother Dickens says, “I never have yet seen an eye or a foot or a hand in its proper size larger than the body, and the Jewish nation was a larger body than the apostles; my suggestion is that the apostles were the eye for the Jewish nation, or the hand or the foot; the eye is the thing to see with, and the apostles had more light and could see deeper into the truth than the whole Jewish nation.” Regarding beast, bird and man he is right, that the body is larger than the feet, eyes or hands, but he will, I am sure, acknowledge that the feet, hands and eyes are the strength of the body, man would be a weak and helpless creature indeed without them.
Therefore, I hope brother Dickens will see that the hand, foot and eye in Matt, xviii. 8, 9, represent powers rather than members of a natural body. He makes the apostles and Jews pretty close kin when he says “the apostles were the eye, hand and foot of the Jewish nation.” Naturally, this presents the same relationship that I have tried to present all the time: that they (apostles and Jews) were all members of one body. I hope brother Dickens will see this, if so, it may explain my position better than I am able to do. Our brother says, “The apostles had more light and could see deeper into the truth than the whole Jewish nation.” If we are to “weigh language” then brother Dickens says the Jewish nation had some light into the truth; if so, it was not blind, but he asks, “Can it be possible that the blind, unbelieving Jews were the hand, foot and eye for the people of God?” The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” This light is synonymous with truth, and the Jews comprehended it not, because they were blinded. I do not believe that Elder Dickens means to present the idea that the Jewish nation could see or understand the truth, but “if I understand him, according to his language he certainly does.”
Brother Dickens now leaves the things spoken to the apostles nearly two thousand years ago and speaks in the present tense, saying, Can it be that such as these (unbelievers, defiled Jews,) are the eye, hand or foot for the saints of God? We should remember that many things were said to the apostles which are not applicable to any other men who ever lived. The Jewish nation to-day is not the power of the land, neither are the children of God under the law, but under grace, hence they are not to obey those who sat in Moses’ seat, but rather be subject to the powers that be, our nation or government. We should, if we can, apply Scripture in its place and time. Brother Dickens says, “If I should say to a man, Thy hand is bleeding, would he look at my hand to see if it were bleeding, and think that it was his hand? No, he would look at his own that was connected to him.” No one would deny this, but if the Jewish nation, the strength and guide, according to the law, should have suffered loss or calamity in any way, the apostles would have suffered with it, being members of it. In the same sense we of the United States would suffer should our nation suffer disaster, since we are members of the union or nation.
Brother Dickens now calls upon the readers of his letter to begin with the first of Matthew xviii., and tells them that they will see that Jesus was addressing the apostles, whom he says represented the church, and to them he said, If thy hand or foot offend thee cut it off and cast it from thee, &c. I will quote a few verses just here to show that Jesus had others, as well as members of the church, in his thoughts and words: “Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee.” – Matthew xviii. 2-8. “Little children “represented the church, or characters of the church, these enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoso should receive such little ones would receive Jesus, but whoso should offend or not receive the little ones who believed in Jesus, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. Is this character a little one? is he a member of the body of Christ? is he an “orderly upright walking member “Ms he “a bright light in the church “? What does the Savior say? “Woe unto the world because of offences!” “Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” What shall be done with him? it was not the right of the apostles to drown him in the sea; Jesus did not so command them, but did command them to cut him off, regardless of station, and cast him from them, or in other words, separate yourselves from all who offend in denying Jesus to be the Christ, and therefore receive not the little ones in his name.
Brother Dickens calls attention to what Jesus said in Matt. v. concerning the offender being a member of the body. I do not see any material difference in his language there from that in Matt, xviii. 8, 9. The Savior was giving the new law in Matt, v., and tells his disciples, in substance, that whoever of the Jewish nation lived according to the sayings of olden times would manifest that they were not of his, therefore if the eye or hand, members of their body (Israel), should offend, it should be plucked out or cut off, or in other words, the apostles were to separate from all who claimed to be “Moses’ disciples.”
Our brother says, Paul was speaking of the church or members when they were in an humble and unoffended feeling, when he said, The head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you, nor the eye to the hand, I have no need of thee. Paul does not tell us that this is his meaning. According to this, few were the times in the apostles day that it could be said, but rather a cutting off and a plucking out would have been almost continually the work of the church, according to brother Dickens’ understanding of the terms pluck out and cut off.
I am glad that brother Dickens tells us Webster says separate means to cut off. Again, brother Dickens says, “I presume that Elder Ker thinks that to cut off any of the members, there would be a spot in the bride. When her Husband said, There is no spot in thee, he was looking at her through his own atoning blood, that he had cleansed her from all sin, for the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin; therefore he could speak the above loving words, and not that he looked at her while she is tabernacling here in the Mesh.” I ask, is the church now perfect through Christ, or is it looking for another sacrifice by which it can be cleansed from all sin? Let the word of God answer: “By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” If this does not absolutely establish the fact that the church of God is now perfect in Christ, I am deceived.
Brother Dickens speaks of Paul serving the law of sin with his flesh; let us not forget what Paul said of himself: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” When the Husband said to the bride, There is no spot in thee, he saw her just as she stands to-day, in him, delivered from sin, death, hell and the grave. Our experience of conflict between the flesh and the Spirit should in no wise give us to think that sin has dominion over us.
Brother Dickens admits that the Savior said nothing in immediate connection with Matt, xviii. 8, 9, concerning healing the member that offended, whether it be hand, foot or eye, but says, “In the same chapter, after telling Peter what to do with a brother who trespasses against him until it gets to the church, then if the offending brother will not hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. What does this mean I To withdraw or cut him off, or in other words, he is considered no more a member of the church, having no more right nor privileges in the church than if he had never joined.” I want to call attention to the fact that Jesus first mentioned brotherhood in Matthew xviii, in verse 15, by saying, “Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee.” From this on to the end of the chapter he is speaking of what we call church order, and how to proceed in cases of transgression. Peter does not imply in his inquiry, How many times must I cut my brother off? but rather, How many times can he be healed? and Jesus told him until seventy times seven, meaning limes without number. Please bear in mind that no mention here is made of hand, foot or eye, but brother. Jesus said, “If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind [not cut off] on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” Is there not a difference, between cutting off and binding?
From unbelievers the apostles were to separate themselves, but the brother who acted disorderly should be bound. I am willing, however, that brother Dickens should say cut off if he likes that better. No brother should be allowed to sin at the expense or sanction of the church, but when he repents of his sin he should be restored to the privileges of the house as a brother. You know, brother Dickens, that it is a brother who offends, (in this connection) it is a brother who will not hear the church, it is a brother who is to be as a heathen man and a publican, it is a brother who is bound, it is a brother who is loosed. In the case of the hand, foot and eye they were to be cut off and cast from the apostles, signifying they had no place in the body of Christ. It is different with a brother, we may separate ourselves from him, we may exclude him from the privileges of the house, cut him off in the sense of separation in christian walk and conversation; but does this affect the fellowship that we had for him before as a child of God? We cannot fellowship his ungodly deeds, but if we believe before his exclusion that he is a child of God, we love him as such afterward, notwithstanding his sins. Christian fellowship that can be put on and taken off at will is not worth much. I understand that the fellowship of saints (like faith) controls the man, rather than the man controlling fellowship.
I feel sure that brother Dickens and I would be agreed if we could talk together a few moments. From his standpoint of church order, as he understands Matthew xviii. 8,9, he is right, but I do not understand that portion of the word to refer to church order in the sense of discipline. He is right, that we should withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly. I should not like to think that brother Dickens or any other man is more favorable to good order in the house of God than I am. My opinion is that the church should deal with every member who walks contrary to the gospel, regardless of age or standing socially or financially. Elder Dickens is, I am sure, viewing the church from the standpoint of order, while I am viewing the perfect church or bride, and it is in the sense of vital unity that I say a member, hand, foot or eye, cannot be cut off or plucked out. This body is gloriously perfect, but it would not be perfect if any member could be cut off. Therefore, to this body Paul says, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Elder Dickens seems to think that I misunderstood his question concerning the resurrection; the original question and connection is as follows: “Do you believe in the resurrection of our vile Adamic bodies that die and are buried in the earth where men dig holes with picks, hoes and shovels! If so, you certainly believe that Christ is able to replace all the limbs and eyes that his people have been so unfortunate as to lose in this life. If he can do this, which I believe he can, then he can replace a member of his body or kingdom in this life.” If this is not to the end, Do I believe in the power of God: then I am frank to confess that I do not understand plain English language. In this question and connection brother Dickens makes quite a distinction between the body and head, or Christ and the church; he says in his letter that the church should cut off disorderly members, but plainly says, in substance, the church cannot replace the members cut off, but Christ can, and if he does not, then brother Dickens does not want them replaced. How does this correspond with what Jesus said to the apostles (whom brother Dickens says represented the church) in Matt, xviii. 18, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven “? This power is given by the Savior to the church, hence we have no more right to say that Christ replaces than to say he cuts off the member.
I will now answer the question of brother Dickens concerning the resurrection the best I can, and hope not to be misunderstood. Just what he means by saying, “Do you believe in the resurrection of our vile Adamic bodies?” I do not know, but his language means, Do I believe in the resurrection of the same identical, vile, Adamic body that goes down in the earth! This would bring up the same body that went down, without change. If this is what he means, then I say no, because it is contrary to the word of God; but if he means that our vile body is changed, if he means it is sown a natural body and raised a spiritual body, if he means this mortal must put on immortality, if he means mortality is swallowed up of life, if he means that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, then I say yes, with all my mind and strength. We have no record of any change taking place after it is raised, “it is raised a spiritual body.” If there be no resurrection, then every son and daughter of Adam are without hope, but “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” Hence it is conclusive that in the resurrection we shall not appear in the image of Adam, or in other words, in our vile Adamic bodies, but in the image of Jesus. What this image is, or what we shall be, “doth not yet appear “to any man who lives on the earth.
Brother Dickens says he is anxious about the matter of the hand, foot and eye, because he considers it a vital point of discipline, and he hopes the Lord may bless our controversy to the good of the church. I hope also that our little correspondence may do no harm. He says if he is right he hopes the Lord will bless it to his people, and if I am right he hopes “the Lord will open the eyes of the blind to see it.” Just who brother Dickens refers to when he says, open the eyes of the blind, I do not fully understand. He tells us that the Jews and unbelievers are the blind, I therefore hardly think he refers to that class. If he means the people of God (manifest children) then I fail to understand why he should say “eyes of the blind.” The church of God is not blind to the truth, the eyes of their understanding having been enlightened; the sight may not be perfect, but sight at all is not blindness. I think the blindness which is most against us is blindness to our own shortcomings, faults, sins and weakness, but our sight is acute concerning these things in our brethren. I wish we might watch over each other for good and not for evil.
I have tried to reply to brother Dickens as the different points appear in his letter, and I have tried to be plain and pointed that I may be understood, but with no intention of being sarcastic or unkind. I fully believe brother Dickens is sincere in this matter, and I hope that I am equally so. We both have now given our views of the subject as well as we can perhaps, and they stand for the investigation of the readers of the Signs. One thing is sure, viz: whatever the Savior meant by the language, stands unchanged to-day and forever, regardless of what any of us may think, speak or write; our opinions will never change the true import of God’s word. I am perfectly willing that brother Dickens shall have his view of the matter under consideration, and I am also sure that all others are willing, and that many stand with him I have no question, but this does not change my opinion, even though I should stand alone; my understanding of the Scriptures is not a matter between myself and man, but between God and me.
No man is infallible save those who were inspired of God and mentioned in his word by name. To God is all praise due for spiritual knowledge, wisdom and revelation. I ask no man to believe what I try to preach or write only as it is supported by the word of God.
I am not favorable to controversy, it seldom works to the glory of God, but often to an estrangement between brethren; it often makes the difference of opinion wider, it often confuses the minds of God’s children, rather than to comfort them. I want, however, to stand firm in the truth, if it be God’s will, and earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, but this does not mean fighting our brethren; many men have done this in their daily life more effectually than they ever did in the pulpit or through the press.
I now hope that brother Dickens may be willing to let this question of discussion cease with this number of the Signs. I appreciate his desire that God may bless brother Chick and me in our connection with the Signs, and I want to assure him that I desire God’s blessing upon him in all his labor in the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
Editorial – H. C. KER.
Signs Of The Times