Cherry Grove, Near Lexington, Ky., Nov. 23,1860.
BROTHER BEEBE: - Sometime ago I received a letter from brother A. F. Dudley, of Missouri, requesting my views on the latter clause of the second, together with the third verse, of the seventh chapter of the book of Amos, either by private letter or through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, preferring the latter. At the time, I thought the subject too mysterious for my weak capacity, and that it would be difficult for one to explain that to others which he did not understand himself. On reviewing the subject, however, I have concluded to send you the following comments, and, if you see fit to publish, present it to brother Dudley and other readers of the SIGNS. The second and third verses read as follows: "And it came to pass that when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O, Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee; by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small. The Lord repented, for this: It shall not be, saith the Lord."
I shall aim to treat the subject in a general way, and not according to the precise order in which it is recorded. This language was used under the former, old covenant, and had reference to things then existing, as well as to the future. When the Lord gave the law to national Israel, he no doubt knew what effect it would have on that people, what their rebellious course would be, and what the ultimatum of it. See, Deut. xxxi. 16, 17, 29. By the law he secured to them the plenitude of the land of Canaan upon the condition, "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land." If not, he was armed with the sword of the surrounding nations, the famine, the pestilence, the ferocious beasts of the forest, the poisonous sting of the serpent, destructive insects, such as the locust, caterpillar, palmer-worm and grasshopper, to chastise them for their rebellion, humble their pride, and thereby perpetuate their nationality until his wise designs were accomplished in relation to them.
Often had he to visit those calamities upon them to bring them to repentance, and when that was accomplished sufficiently, he repented of the evil with which he chastised them, or in other words, changed his course of procedure towards them, restoring them to their former privileges and blessings. They were often brought low, or made small by those visitations. It was under one of those afflictive dispensations that the prophet cried, "O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee; by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." It is then added, "The Lord repented for this: It shall not be, saith the Lord." The scriptures frequently speak of the Lord as repenting, and yet it is said, "The strength of Israel will not lie nor repent, for he is not a man that should repent." - 1 Sam. xv. 29. And again, "God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent." - Num. xxiii. 19. We are not, therefore, to conclude that the Lord repents as we do. Repentance with man is of various kinds, and produced under different circumstances. They often repent of their wicked deeds because they are detected, and justice is about to overtake them. This is the case with thieves, robbers, murderers, &c. Others, again, repent of their wickedness from a sense of fear or dread of punishment in a future state. Such is the Arminians' repentance. A very zealous one told me that if the devil was dead nobody would pray any more. But again, some repent of their deeds when such deeds result in their disappointment, and militate against their temporal interests. All this is regret, or a remorse for past misdeeds, or dread of merited retribution. Surely we cannot conclude that God repents in this way, for there are no past misdeeds with him, nor fear of future consequences. Moreover, his people repent when he grants them repentance unto life; not only for their past follies, but from a feeling sense of their evil natures and perplexities. "The goodness of God," (not the fear of punishment) leads them to this. Neither can God repent in this way; for there are no follies, no evil nature or perplexities with him. All this produces a change of feeling, and in the latter case a turning away from sinful practices, and a loathing of sinful nature. This is not the case with God, for there is no change in him, "neither shadow of turning." Said he, "I am the Lord, I change not." Yet it is, said, "The Lord repented for this, (the reduction of Israel by the grasshoppers) and said, "It shall not be," and of course the grasshoppers were stopped and the grass made to grow again. We are then to conclude that it is to represent to us his diversified dealings with Israel in humbling them at one time, and raising them up at another, which to them was a change in his procedure. But some may ask, Why all this diversified course with his national people, as he knew what the end would be? We answer, to try them. But why try them, as he knew what the result would be? Answer, that we might know. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning." Hence we learn that if matters were suspended upon the condition, "if ye be willing and obedient," relative to a temporal inheritance, and proved a total failure, we need not suppose that an eternal inheritance suspended on similar conditions would be attended with better success. We look back then, at the former covenant, and see a final failure on the part of national Israel to secure a temporal inheritance upon the conditional plan; we turn a leaf and look into the new dispensation, and there we see, consequently, that the Lord makes a new covenant with the house of Israel, "not according" to the former, not "if ye be willing and obedient." We learn therefore, that it is, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us." This being the case, we are to look for an answer to the question, "By whom shall Jacob arise?" in this sense elsewhere.
In the subsequent part of this prophecy we learn what was to be the final result of the conditional dispensation. From time to time God had passed by their transgressions, and repented, that is, changed his course of dealing or withheld his judgments when they had been sufficiently humbled and repented of their misdeeds, until we may be thoroughly convinced that the repentance they were capable of performing evidenced that all their goodness was as the morning cloud and as the early dew that passeth away. He lets us know that he will not pass by them any more. "The songs of the temple shall be humbled in that day, saith the Lord God; there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence." He would cause their sun to go down at noon, and darken the earth in a clear day, their feasts were to be turned into mourning and all their songs into lamentations. "Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth, saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord." "All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say that the evil shall not overtake nor prevent us." Next, as I conceive, comes the answer to the question, "By whom shall Jacob arise?" "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and build it as in the days of old. That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the heathen which are called by my name, saith the Lord which doeth this." In the resuscitation of Jacob, there is a most sublime and heavenly contemplation for the sons of Jacob. He by whom Jacob is to arise, is "the resurrection and the life" in a two-fold sense. God in his ruling power and reigning grace, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. He not only raised us up from under the curse of the law, the power of death and beyond the prevalence of the gates of hell, but manifestly brings us up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and sets our feet upon a rock, establishes our goings, and puts a new song in our mouth, even praises to our God, thus preparing us as fit materials for his temple, and then rears the heavenly superstruction, makes it his everlasting dwelling place, then out of Zion the perfection of beauty shines with all the radiance of celestial glory. Thanks to his superlative name; in the august majesty of his power he raises up the eternal edifice in the face, and over the opposition of all who would dare retard its completion.
"What though the gates of hell withstood,
Yet must this building rise;
‘Tis thy own work, Almighty God,
And marvelous in our eyes."
"We have a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Her walls are salvation, her gates praise. Happy, brother Dudley, happy all ye children of Zion who sit in the gates of the God-protected fortress, safely environed with those impregnable walls, immovable bulwarks, and chant the hallowed lays, the harmonious anthems of praise to the great Master Builder. To us the fortifications may seem at times dilapidated, the enemy coming in like a flood, but the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. The songs may be silent in the gates, the harps noiseless upon the willows, but the cheering voice of the great Architect may be heard saying, "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, his hands shall also finish it." "He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shouting, crying, Grace unto it."
"Deep on the palms of both my hands,
I have engraved her name;
My hand shall raise her ruined walls,
And build her broken frame."
But we say he is the resurrection in a two-fold sense. He has not only,
"Raised us from the depth of sin,
The gates of gaping hell;
And fix'd our standing more secure,
Than 'twas before we fell,"
but he will yet exhibit a more glorious display of his resuscitating power in our ransom from the grave, our redemption from death, when all the lowering clouds that scowl over our religious horizon here shall be forever dissipated, when the transcendently luminous SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS shall arise with healing in his wings, when the effulgent light of the resurrection morn shall burst upon our enraptured vision with all its heavenly lustre, when the lucid orb of eternal day shall loom up with all its radiant effulgence to glitter forever in the firmament of heaven; then we can realize more fully, "By whom shall Jacob arise." Till then, may we be enabled to count all things but loss that we may win Christ, and be found in him, not having on our own righteousness which is by the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God through faith. That we may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
Your brother and servant in the Redeemer's kingdom,
J. F. JOHNSON.