Georgetown, Ky., June 5,1861.
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - In number six, of the current volume of the SIGNS, brother D. C. Byram, of Illinois, has requested my views on 1 Cor. vi. 15, which reads: "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid."
I am heartily gratified with the freedom that brother Byram has used in this case. He is to me an esteemed brother, and in this instance my esteem is heightened toward him. When we hear a brother advance what we do not fully understand, how much better it is for us to confer with him on the subject than to find fault, and undertake to explain to others what is obscure to us. In this way we may unintentionally misrepresent a brother, wound each other, and thereby the cause that is dear to us all. My brother has my hearty thanks for the freedom he has used, and I will do the very best I can in compliance with his request. It shall be my aim in the first place to show in what sense our bodies are the members of Christ. Paul, in his epistle to the Col. i, 26, 27, speaks of a mystery that has been hid from ages and generations, but is now made manifest to the saints, and says to his brethren that the mystery is, "Christ in you the hope of glory." In this sublime mystery, Christ and his Father makes their abode with us, and our bodies are therefore temples for the Holy Ghost to dwell in. See John xiv. 23, and 1 Cor. vi. 19. And again it is said, 1 Cor. ii. 16, we have the mind of Christ. Here then, is a most powerful influence to operate upon our bodies, one able to control and make them subservient to that indwelling power. The members of our bodies are insusceptible of action without a principle or law to govern them. In the absence of Christ in us, our members are under the control of a carnal mind that is enmity against God, which mind is the principle or law that governs them. This mind is not destroyed by the indwelling of the mind of Christ; hence, Paul had a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind (the mind of Christ which he had) and bringing him into captivity, &c., and this he calls another law, in contrariety to the law of God, in which he delighted "after the inward man." This was an opposing principle, one calculated to produce a counteraction, and cause him to yield his "members as instruments of righteousness unto God." It is in consequence of these two counteracting principles, that with the same tongue we "bless God" and "curse man," that out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. As God works in his children to will and to do of his good pleasure, and is able to subdue all things unto himself, he can control all the members that compose our entire bodies, and thereby cause our hearts to understand as they should, our eyes to see things as they should, our ears to hear as they should, our feet to walk where they should go, our hands to act as they should; and, in short, it is in consequence of this indwelling power alone that we are enabled to keep under our bodies and bring them into subjection.
Now "the church of Christ is the body of Christ," and is composed, as organized here, of baptized believers. Each of these believers then, is a member of that body; and as Christ dwells in them and they have his mind; this Christ and mind operates upon each member of that body as really and effectually as does our natural mind upon the natural members of our body, and therefore our bodies are thus as really the members of Christ, as are our natural members the members of our natural body.
But for some wise purpose, known only to God, it has pleased him to leave us at times under the influence of our natural or carnal mind. The tuition of the mother of harlots and her daughters is congenial with that mind, which constitutes the law that governs our members, and that wars against the law of our mind, (the mind of Christ,) and thus brings us into captivity. When the children of God yield to that unhallowed influence, they make their bodies the members of an harlot. As said the apostle, so say I, "God forbid" that they should thus yield their members as instruments of unrighteousness unto iniquity.
Brother Byram refers to a sermon preached by me at the White Water Association, 1859, "which discourse," he says, "I heard, and heard nothing that I could condemn." And again he says, "yet there were some things that I could not as fully comprehend and understand as I could wish, yet I could not say but that it was truth, and sustained by the scriptures; yet this passage I cannot reconcile with those views." It is certainly the privilege and indisputable right of the saints to call in question any idea that their servants may advance which seems to conflict with any portion of the scriptures. If one text is antagonistical to any opinion we have, all are. But I cannot see anything in this text to conflict with any idea that I have, or with any one that I have heretofore held or advanced. I have uniformly contended that the christian was a complex being, composed of two different and opposing natures, one heavenly, the other earthly. Those natures are apparent in actions, good and bad, religiously considered; and those actions are either right or wrong, as they are prompted by a good or bad principle. Those two principles are the two laws that control all our actions. By acting under the suggestions of the spirit of anti-christ, a bad principle, Paul suggests that we may make our bodies the members of an harlot. If not, why the precautionary question, "Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot?" This is a very necessary caution, one that the children of God should carefully observe, one that is essentially necessary in order to their comfort while here. Is it not a lamentable fact that many of them are now entangled in the meshes of that drag that is used by the daughters of the mother of harlots, and thus making their bodies the members of an harlot? Or, in other words, are not their actions and speech to too great an extent governed by that evil spirit or principle which they imbibe from those harlots? I suppose there must be some of them in that category; if not, why should the Lord say to them, "Come out of her, my people?" It seems, however, that although they make their bodies the members of an harlot, it does not destroy his title to them, for he says, My people. In the following verse it is said, "What! know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh." This unholy alliance or illegitimate marriage with the old mother's daughters, and thereby making their bodies the members of harlots, is bad business for the children of God.
I conclude then that whenever we "put on Christ," or unite with the church, "the body of Christ," we become manifestly the members of that body, and therefore our bodies - visibly and legally - are the members of Christ, and then there is a most solemn obligation resting upon us on the one hand, and it is our best interest on the other, not to make our bodies the members of a harlot by "yielding our members as instruments of unrighteousness unto iniquity;" for, to whom we yield ourselves servants to obey, his servants we are to whom we obey, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness.
I have now given my honest views on the text, and know not that they are the sentiments of any other one; and if you, brother Beebe, think it advisable, present them through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES to brother Byram and others of your readers, for the investigation of better judges than the humble writer; and, in the meantime, I have the confidence in the subjects of grace to believe and desire, that they may not endorse them unless they are sustained by the scriptures.
Your brother, most truly,
J. F. JOHNSON.