South Hill, Bradford Co., Pa., July 4, 1839.
MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE – Since I have got home, though I am somewhat lame with the rheumatism, yet comparatively well to what I was when we parted at New Vernon.
Seeing this day is celebrated as the birth of our American independence, and the world is as busy in its vanities as a bed of ants in their occupation, I thought to employ a few hours with my pen in celebrating the liberty of them that are made free by the Son of God. Our bondage in sin and self-righteousness was abundantly more oppressive to our souls, than the oppression of our mother country was to the Americans previous to the revolution; and the achievement of our liberty cost a much more valuable treasure of blood, and a more direct effort of an almighty arm than theirs: and our liberty is as much the greatest. Theirs was only temporal but ours is spiritual; theirs was from an earthly power and for a worldly dominion, but ours was from the curse of God’s holy law, and from the power of sin, and is of a heavenly nature; theirs was only for this life, but ours is eternal. Since Americans shout and laugh and sing the praise of the heroes that bled and died in obtaining their victory shall we be silent in the praise of him who groaned and bled and died beneath the load of our guilt, from which he rose redeeming us from sin? – who came from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? – who trod the wine press alone and of the people there was none with him? – who looked and there was none to help and wondered that there was none to uphold; whose own arm brought salvation, and whose fury it upheld him?
May the victory won by Christ, the redemption that is in Christ, the obligations that we feel to Christ, the liberty that we have in Christ, the union that we feel with Christ, and the Spirit of Christ which is given unto us, preserve us from conducting as improperly, while we attempt to celebrate his praise, as many of our fellow citizens do while they profess to celebrate the birth of our American independence, whose feasting and revelry is merely sporting with the groans and blood of our ancestors. Such however appeared among the saints in olden time, which were spots in their feasts of charity; feeding themselves without fear – clouds without water carried about of winds – trees whose fruit withereth – without fruit – twice dead – plucked up by the roots – raging waves of the sea foaming out their own shame – wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever: – and I fear that the professed Church of Christ is not wholly purged from characters of a similar description, even at the present time. A description of the same or similar characters, I think, is prophetically given by Ezekiel in his thirteenth chapter. It doubtless applied well in his day, and if I am not mistaken, it gives a description of characters which live at the present time. I had thought of turning my attention to the subject, and making a few observations thereon; and if you should think them worth a place in the Signs, perhaps the garment may suit some one.
Ezek. xiii. 1, 2, & 3: – “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own heart. Hear ye the word of the Lord, Thus saith the Lord God, Wo unto the foolish prophets that follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!” Prophesy out of their own hearts! – “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The fountain when their prophetic instruction comes is their own hearts, and not the WORD OF THE LORD. The fountain being corrupt the streams in consequence are. If it was the word of the Lord, the fountain being pure, the streams would be likewise. They follow their own spirits, which lead them into darkness: if they followed the Spirit of Christ, it would lead them to Christ, the Fountain of Light. Being in darkness, their own spirit leads them into error: the Spirit of Christ leads them that follow it into truth.
They have seen nothing. Can any thing be more true than that such as teach the great use of the popular institutions of the day, the union of effort, and a conditional salvation are in the dark, where they can see nothing of the wretched helpless state of sinners, the depravity of the human heart, and the glory of salvation by Christ alone?
Verse 4: – “O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts.” Foxes in the deserts are wild animals not domesticated: so the prophets spoken of were wild untaught of the Lord. Foxes are unclean beasts: the false prophets were unclean, and so are all natural men, whether preachers or otherwise. Foxes are carnivorous animals, more like dogs and wolves than sheep, though they are said to feed sometimes on certain fruits: so the prophets of Israel were in reality more like the heathen than like the children of God, though they might by turns attend to some portion of the worship he had ordained. They were spoken of as dogs by Isaiah; and the description given in the New Testament of false teachers compares well with it. They love to live in holes under ground. Such is the nature of such as make pretensions to teach the word of the Lord, who do not dwell in Christ. Their dwellings under ground are said to have more than one avenue, so that if chased by the huntsmen in at one they may escape at another. This may be descriptive of the vague manner and quaint turns of such as which to keep hid. The fox is a sly crafty creature; and so all false teachers try to be, according to their ability. Yet, sly as they naturally are, they will appear quite bold when no danger is apprehended. As carnivorous creatures feed upon others, so these foxes, false prophets, teachers, &c., are spoken of in the testimony, as eating up God’s people as they eat bread; they eat the lambs out of the flock, &c. Their eating the lambs out of the flock, the calves out of the stall, &c., shows their covetous disposition of living upon the property of others, and they care not who: rich or poor, widow, orphan, dead or dying man, so they can saturate their gormandizing desire. And, since they live much by plunder, their depredations are often in the dark, under cover of the night or some disguise; so that their ostensive object is different from their real one. Job said of similar characters, In the dark they dig through houses which they had marked for themselves in the day time. They know not the light, or the morning is to them even as the shadow of death. In again noticing their being sly creatures we shall just say, they seek to keep themselves from being discovered by those whom they mean to make their prey, until they are fairly within their grasp, or in such a position that they are most sure of them.
Much more might be said of their cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive, – much indeed that to some might appear incredible, and much which in some instances might be true and in others not. But, to sum up the whole, the conduct of Joab to Amasa may give us a fair view: And Joab said to Amasa, Art thou in health, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him. But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hand; so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and struck him not again, and he died. Thus in a figure may be seen the flattery, craft and falsehood of foxes – false teachers of every grade. They privily bring in damnable heresies.
Verse 5: – “Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle, in the day of the Lord.” There appears a want of firmness and stability in such characters; they are soon dismayed when a potent opposition appears to oppose their craft, and care for whiffling, changing their position or running when detected in their false appearances. Their expressions are often so ambiguous as to admit of different explications, answering to a trumpet giving an uncertain sound.
Verses 6 & 7: – “They have seen vanity and lying divinations; saying, The Lord saith, and the Lord hath not sent them, and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain wisdom, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The Lord saith it, albeit I have not spoken? As children, by closing their eyes and pressing the eye-balls, imagine they see clouds of various colors, and a variety of things, so these prophets and false teachers, by pressing their intellectual powers with hard study to qualify them to carry on their deception like the fox, imagine they see and know the way of righteousness, and the things of the Spirit of God, so as to be capable of teaching them: and by giving children’s bread to dogs – misapplying the promises and scriptural declarations, they in some measure make their argument appear plausible to the carnal mind: so they are emboldened to say, The Lord saith it, when he hath not said any such thing as they declare. There are doubtless many that from the above named cause do really imagine that for a plenty of cash men may be employed in a union of effort to evangelize the world, and pursuade sinners to be so kind as to give up their hearts to God, and feel their sins forgiven; and become the children of God. Nor can I doubt that there may be many who are so blinded by the god of this world as to think it is a reality, – that they by their preaching can be instrumental in making christians, as co-workers together with God, and with him expect to share the glory! and with their anxious-bench maneuvres, &c., they have caused many to hope that they would confirm the word; but they have seen a vain vision, and have spoken a lying divination, and many poor souls are deceived thereby: and, I read that some of God’s dear children are entangled in their snares.
Verses 10 & 11: – “Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace, and there was no peace; and one built up a wall and lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar, say unto them which daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fal; and a stormy wind shall rend it.” God complained of the Church in Thyatira because they suffered that woman Jezebel to teach, and to seduce his servants. The prophets of old by their false teaching seduced the people of God, and led them into wrong practices. There were some, whom John mentions, that seduced the people in his days. And Paul to Timothy says, The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, &c. If the prophets in Ezekiel’s time seduced the people of God, why not false teachers now, seeing it is written, They shall wax worse and worse?
They cried, Peace! when there was no peace. How similar to Joab’s saying to Amasa, Art thou in health, my brother? when he designed to kill him! And how nearly is the farce that was carried on by the false prophets of old acted over before our eyes, and within our hearing! How many of these play actors (false teachers) have saluted us with very plausible address, seemed to wish to do us good, to build us up, to make us respectable that the church might not fall into disrepute, and become like a dunghill in the world. It is true there may be a small shade of difference in our views on some points; but they are immaterial: there doubtless are some in the church that think as we do; and we ought to receive one another and walk together in peace. Thus if they cannot by flattery seduce and get the whole, they will lead off a part; where they can they will divide, cause divisions, &c. And, as there was of old so there is some even now, that the Lord has kept and has not suffered to be led away with the error of the wicked. So when these arise to stand their ground and vindicate the truth, they are ready to bite them with their teeth, and war is directly prepared against him that putteth not into their mouths. Then comes one building up a wall. Though there may be certain points held forth, and practices introduced that are complained of as being anti-scriptural and anti-christian, yet the wall is built for defence. Great men, and good men, yea, the multitude think and practise so: and though the wall is build of hewn stones, polished stones and rough stones, bricks, sticks and rotten wood, all mixed together, as they amalgamate all kinds of characters in their great religious societies, – Lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar. For when these things are complained of, they are daubed. Some daubingly say they have no fellowship with them, yet they go along as though they had. Others say they do not know as there is much hurt in them, and that they think they are doing a great deal of good; and so they daub it up: and they all work hard to slick it over, thinking to shelter themselves under the wall. But their mortar is not well wrought; it is untempered; it will not bear the storm, – it shall fall. The Lord hath spoken it: when he shall send an overflowing shower, and the hail comes rattling against it, and the Lord opens his fists and lets out the wind that he has gathered in them, a stormy wind shall rend it. The Lord is almighty. Blessed are they that put their trust in him.
[TO BE CONCLUDED.]
Signs of the Times
Volume 7, No. 16.
August 15, 1839