BROTHER BEEBE: - My views are again solicited on a passage of scripture, and if you are disposed to publish, I will try to comply with the request, although I prefer that my friends would apply to others who can write more profitably to them and pleasing to myself. The request is:
“Will brother J. F. Johnson of Kentucky give, through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, his views on 1 John iii. 3, and oblige a brother? &c.”
The text reads, “And every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
“This hope” is alluded to in the preceding verse. The apostle, after reminding his brethren of the wonderful love that the Father has bestowed on us, and that the world knoweth us not because it knew him not, says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” The hope that we shall be like him and see him as he is, is the highest aspiration of the children of God.
I suppose the request of my brother will embrace particularly the hope and purification spoken of in the text. That hope is an exotic, not indigenous to our earthly country, but the product of “a better country, that is, an heavenly one.” It is a precious gift from God our heavenly Father, which hath “GIVEN US everlasting consolation and good hope through grace.” Hope is a fond anticipation, a patient waiting for, and a confident expectation of things not seen. For, “Hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” The exercise and appreciation of a hope requires a basis on which it can rest, commensurate in importance with the thing or things anticipated. The warrant on which the christian's hope rests is fully competent to sustain it. The grace, blood, righteousness and intercession of the Lord Jesus constitute that warrant. It therefore “abideth,” and is unlike the hope of the hypocrite that “shall perish.” See Job viii. 13 and Prov. x. 28, vi. 7.
We can scarcely conceive a wider contrast than exists between the christian's hope and that of the hypocrite or workmonger. That of the former rests solely upon Christ, upon what HE is and what HE does; while the latter depends upon, “if I do,” or, “If I keep on doing,” or “hold out faithful.” “I do” is the foundation on which that hope is based, and when “I do” fail, down goes the whole superstructure; for no edifice can stand when the foundation gives way. The characteristics that distinguish the two hopes are as diverse as are the hopes themselves. The hope of the self-righteous, is the precursor of self-laudation and bigotry, and prompts the possessor to say, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are,” and to boast of the “efforts” he makes, the works he performs and the money he pays to support the cause and replenish the oft-depleted treasury of his imaginary god. See Luke xviii. 11, 12. Ignorant of being the servants of sin and under the dominion of the prince of the power of the air, they claim a degree of freedom amounting to un-bridled independence. According to their theory they are free born, free agents, have free wills, are free to choose, free to refuse, and, of course, free to go to heaven, if in no other way to “take it by storm;” free to take another course and go to the other place, and why not free to take a stubborn stand and go to neither place? Not only is each individual free to control his own destiny, but by concentrating their efforts they claim the liberty of controlling the destinies of the world. If they choose to sit down in supineness and negligence, “thousands perish for lack of knowledge.” But on the other hand, a vigorous “effort,” a proper use of means, zealous, active and “indefatigable instrumental saviors,” and it would require but a few cents on the head to save the world. All these monstrous hallucinations are taught, and vehemently urged, under the influence of a delusive phantom, a false hope. Its legitimate tendency is to invalidate the Lord's work in the salvation of sinners, a defiance of his authority, and insubordination to his government, and therefore to initiate a form of government and a rule of action congenial with the carnal and depraved nature of sinful mortals, and the result must inevitably be a general corrupting state of society where it obtains, and the complete counterplot of the purification spoken of in the text. “He that hath this hope purifieth himself.” This hope is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast,” and the anchorage being cast “in the clefts of the rock,” secures the “vessel of mercy” in the midst of all the hurricanes that can assail it. It is laid up for the children of God in heaven, (Col. i. 5) secured to them by infallible oaths, confirmed by immutable promises, upon the permanency of which they implicitly trust, and for the accomplishment of which they patiently wait and anxiously desire. It is one of the “all spiritual blessings” that were give us in Christ Jesus, and none possess it but those who have “Christ, which is our hope,” or Christ in them the hope of glory, “a quickening Spirit;” and that Spirit is then and there the motive or propelling power that actuates the christian in the performance of every purifying deed that is preparatory for the full enjoyment of all that our hope anticipates; “For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure;” and it is by the “working of his mighty power” that we purify ourselves even as he is pure. The works of the fleshly mind, fleshly lusts or desires, are all inadequate to perform any part of the work of this purification. In the flesh there dwelleth no good thing, nor can there be any progress made in the work of purifying by it, or anything pertaining to the flesh; and if any good is effected, any purification accomplished, it must be performed by a power radically different from, and infinitely more efficacious than belongs to the natural man, the old man, the depraved man, who is “without strength.” He that hath this hope, hath also this power, and labors by its operation as did Paul, who said be labored, “striving according to HIS working, which worketh in me mightily;” for this hope is nothing less than the “Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope,” and is therefore “Christ in you the hope of glory.” - I Tim. i. 1; Col. i. 27. Then we may say with the prophet, “Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us; for thou hast wrought all our works in us.” - Isa. xxvi. 12. Those who have this hope should hallow the name of the dear “Emanuel, which being interpreted is God with us.” Thus Jesus is the great purifier at last. On Calvary he “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and PURIFY unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” They were then and there made actually and manifestly pure before God's righteous law, and in the eye of justice; yet while in the flesh they have many, very many imperfections. Gold when in the mine is doubtless pure in one sense, still there are attached to it many foreign substances that have to be worked off by passing through the furnace or hot crucible. Like the gold, the children of God have to pass through the furnace; and therefore the Lord has his fire in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem. - Isa. xxxi. 9. And his people are chosen in a furnace of affliction. - Isa. xlviii. 10. That the process of purifying may be complete, their Lord “is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver,” &c. - Malachi iii. 1-3. Under the influence of this working element within, they are to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, “be careful to maintain good works,” “purify their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that they love one another with a pure heart fervently, being born again,” &c. In short, they are to show their faith by their works, knowing that faith without works is dead, being alone.
Perhaps the hard matter for the christian to decide is, How am I to purify myself, seeing as I do so much sin and impurity in my thoughts, words and actions? Let us try to answer this question in the light of scripture. If Christ is our hope, as Paul says in I Tim. i. 1, if he is “in you the hope of glory,” as he says in Col. i. 27, if he is THE HOPE of Israel, THE HOPE of his people, as it is said in Jer. xiv. 8, xvii. 13, and Joel iii. 16, we may not be at a loss to decide that “he that hath this hope” is in the possession of an indwelling power that can do wonders. If, on the other hand, in the flesh dwells no good thing, as the apostle says, Rom. vii. 18, and if without Christ we can do nothing, as he says in John xv. 5, it is evident that that power that enables the christian to purify himself does not belong or pertain to the flesh or fleshly nature. But again, if the child of hope “can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth him,” as Paul says in Phil. iv. 13, that child may rest assured that the purifying himself is one among the all things that he can do through that medium; but in no other way, by no other power. The Lord is emphatically called “the strength” and “everlasting strength” of his people, in Psa. xvi. 1, lxxxi. 1, Isa. xxvi. 4, xlv. 24, and many other places. What is it that the christian cannot do, propelled by HIS strength?
This purifying power IN the christian is like leaven hid in the meal, which works there till the whole is leavened. See Matt. xiii. 33. The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, &c. The kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom; it is born of the Spirit, and is spirit. A component part of that kingdom dwells in each saint, and that spirit will dwell there and prompt that saint to carry on the work of purification until the whole lump is holy or pure. Our sinful bodies are not made pure while they are mortal; neither are our carnal minds, for they are enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. But, dear brethren and sisters, our mortal bodies must rest in the dust of the earth, slumber and moulder there; and then, not until then, will that enmity be slain, after which, our hope anticipates the day when we shall “see him as he is and be like him.” Then let us toil on, and hope on, while our Shepherd is with and in us, we have great encouragement to press on in his strength, and fear not.
“Though many foes beset our road,
And feeble is our arm,
Our life is hid with Christ in God,
Beyond the reach of harm.”
Remember, we have only to work out what he works in, to carry on this work of purification so far as we are concerned, according to Isa. xxvi. 12, and Phil. i. 12, 13. The bitter draughts, the ceaseless toil and relentless war through which we pass here will only enhance our relish for the sweet home, the felicitous rest and the everlasting peace that shall bless us there, when we see him and are like him. Transporting and transforming sight! Unveiling at once the full-orbed glory of his majestic personage, enstamping his heavenly likeness and pouring a lucid flood of brilliant glory over all the immortalized family, where they will shine as the brightness of the firmament and as the stars forever and ever.
Brother Bennet, having tried to comply with your request in April last, and laid it aside, thinking it not worth publishing, on reviewing I have concluded to place it at the discretion of Brother Beebe. Love to the saints.
Signs of the Times -1864