Near New Castle, Ind., Feb. 29, 1848.
“And they shall call them, The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.” - Isa. lxii. 12.
BROTHER BEEBE: - I have delayed to forward our annual remittance, in order to see some brethren who live at a distance, and who, I supposed, would wish to read your interesting periodical. In sending our returns for the SIGNS I will subjoin the following remarks on the passage at the head of this article.
Probably our present condition as a church may have had some influence in directing my mind to this portion of the word. I would relate, for the information of brethren abroad, some of the circumstances of our case. Notwithstanding our unworthiness, we humbly hope they are united to us in that relationship which will lead them to weep with us when we weep, and rejoice with us when we rejoice. I would prefer to lay before them some circumstances concerning us, rather than to give a full elucidation of the text.
In the commencement of the chapter, the special care of the Keeper of Zion is set forth, not only towards his chosen ones among the Jews, but in the second verse it is said, “The Gentiles shall see thy righteousness;” and in the third it is said to the church, “Thou shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.” However she may have appeared as one forsaken and in widowhood, in former times, the gospel epoch was approaching, when she should no more be termed forsaken, nor her land desolate; but she should be called Hephzibah, (my pleasure) and her land Beulah, (married) “for the Lord delighteth in thee.” And farther, her sons should be united with her in wedlock, and her God should rejoice over her, as a bridegroom rejoiceth over his bride. And as the Lord knew that the enemies of his church would be incessantly creeping about her walls, by day and by night, to spy out her liberties, he assured her that he had set watchmen upon her walls that should not hold their peace day nor night. And he has commanded them not to keep silence. How often have these words occurred to my mind when I have seen the enemy lurking around the walls of Zion, and when I have heard the faithful watchmen lifting up their voices like a trumpet. And how has it grieved me to hear some of her inmates crying, “Don't fight,” and to see some of them even draw their swords and bend their bows at the watchmen. Then I have thus reflected: Poor watchmen, ye are called to face the enemy in hostile array, with the Lord's “Shall not hold your peace” sounding in your ears, amidst thousands of poisoned darts which are hurled at you from without, and while valiantly wielding “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” contending with principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places; worse than all, must ye receive repeated wounds from those whom ye regard as friends. Surely they need the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, and the whole armor of God. But hark! “The wicked have drawn out the sword, and bent the bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall return into their own heart, and their bow shall be broken.” Again, “The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him. The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.” The Lord has, by his immutable oath, pledged himself to sustain her in the courts of his holiness. “Go through, go through the gates; prepare you the way of the people; cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.” “He has proclaimed unto the end of the world: say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy Salvation cometh; behold his reward is with him and his work before him.”
“And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord; and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.” How necessary that they should be a holy people; for without holiness none can see the Lord; and yet how impossible that they should make themselves so; for all their works, while dead in sin, are works of iniquity; and works of iniquity cannot produce holiness; neither is it accomplished by works of righteousness which they have done, nor in any other way than by the blood of Christ, which cleanseth them from all sin. He hath “by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified.” This amply acquits them from all legal charges; for all the demands of the law are by this one offering forever canceled. It demands the life of his people, and he who is their Life was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification. Justice cannot require that the debt which has been once fully paid should be paid again. Hence, “They shall be called, The redeemed of the Lord.” Their redemption by the Lord is prima facie evidence of previous relationship, or ownership; for to redeem is to buy back persons or things which are sold or forfeited. Hence the expression by the prophet, “Ye have sold yourselves for naught, and ye shall be redeemed without money.” And the apostle says, “Sold under sin.” Hence the Redeemer “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” But they were not only sold under sin, but they were dead in sin; and hence the necessity of their being quickened, regenerated, made alive and born again. This quickening is not effected by or through men, or means, or instruments, or anything short of the Quickening Spirit. Neither are they born again by, of or through men, as means or instruments. “Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” “Born. again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever.” He is holy, and they that are born of him must necessarily be partakers of his holiness. Children must partake of the nature of their parents. They that are born of, or by, or through the plans, schemes and instruments of men, or through men as means or instruments, are children of hell; but “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and be cannot sin, because he is born of God.” These are the holy people, the holy nation.
But she, the bride of Christ, shall be called, Sought Out. Can there be any doubt how this is effected? He has not said that he would send men, as means or instruments in this work, to seek her out; but he has said, Ezek. xxxiv. 11, “Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock, so will I seek out my sheep," &c. And again, “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away.” Again, “In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halteth, and gather her that is driven out." - Micah iv. 6. See also Luke xix. 10. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Yes, lost, and in a waste howling wilderness, wandering upon the dreary mountains of sin, all like sheep gone astray, and trusting in the mountains of Samaria; blinded by the god of this world, in love with sin, in league with Satan, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, enemies to God, under the Satanic influence of the prince of the power of the air, in bondage under the elements of the world, delighting in the cords that bind them, without strength to break them; bound and in prison, and the doors fast shut, covered with gross darkness, with no human eye to pity, or hand to help.
But O what love, what wonder-working love and goodness is manifested by the kind Shepherd in seeking them out of this vortex of ruin! He finds them in the wilderness, and upon the mountains of sin, opens their eyes, breaks their league with Satan, makes them nigh by his blood, and friends instead of enemies; delivers them from the power of darkness, breaks the yoke of bondage and the cords of sin and unbelief, dispels the gloomy darkness, his all-seeing eye pities them, and his all-powerful arm is made bare (not clothed with means) in their deliverance and eternal salvation. But I had almost forgotten the object of this poor scribbling. They often need seeking out in another sense, for the old man is prone to wander among the swine. David says, Psalm cxix. 176 “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments.” None of them are any better than David, but they must be “Sought out.” The good Shepherd never loses sight of them. No doubt, as we stated in a former communication, but some of the precious lambs were decoyed off by Meansism, who did not believe the heretical doctrines, for such is now proved to have been the fact. But some have already been “Sought out,” and brought home to the fold. But O! to hear them tell of their dreadful privation while wandering over the parched mountains, and of the severe chastisements they received, before they could yield so far as to return, has been almost enough to dissolve a heart of stone. But, you know, our Shepherd is so faithful that he will not let them go. “They shall return and come to Zion.” And O what joy have they and we realized at their return. Like real friends who have long been separated, the joy of meeting seems to have overbalanced all the grief that we endured as the consequence of our having been so cruelly torn asunder. Yes, there has been joy in heaven (the church) over one of these repenting ones, more than over ninety and nine just ones that need no repentance. O what thankfulness, what gratitude we owe to our kind Father, for his mercy endureth forever. For notwithstanding our proneness to wander in the dark, where we are wont to say, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me,” how consoling the reply of our heavenly Bridegroom, whose cheering voice is heard to respond, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget; yet will I not forget thee. Behold I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that make thee waste shall go forth of thee.” Well may she be called, “Sought out, A city not forsaken.” His immutable word hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Although she must pass through the waters, he will be with her, so that the rivers shall not overflow her, the fire shall not burn, nor the flames kindle upon her. The unbroken cords of eternal love shall bind her to him, so that she shall “hold on her way.” His grace shall support, his bounty feed and clothe, and his power keep her, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. Yea, Zion, we may sing concerning thee,
“As surely as he overcame,
And triumphed once for you,
So surely you that love his name,
Shall triumph in him too.”
Brother Beebe, it is truly encouraging, and, I hope, deeply humiliating to us, to witness the Lord's kind dealing toward us, in view of all our unworthiness. Well we remember the cold, dreary and inclement storms that poured upon us their blighting and congealing torrents, until all our enjoyments were chilled, and we almost lifeless, when our harps hung dumb and silent on the willows, when scarce one melodious sound was heard to break the cold and midnight silence. The prowling beasts crept from their dens in fearful numbers, while their hideous howlings seemed ominous of a speedy destruction of all our comforts. Their frightful yells, together with the apparent barrenness of Zion, seemed to cause many of the precious lambs to retire in mournful solitude. While I, whom the brethren seemed to look upon as a watchman that the Lord had set upon her walls, would often stand in solemn meditation, and cast my eyes around, but could not behold another within twenty miles of me, in the service that they regarded as such. How often have I thought, Will I have to stand through life alone and contend against such fearful odds, in relation to numbers? My character traduced, my person abused, my enjoyments destroyed, and, worst of all, the cause that sometimes seemed to lay nearer my heart than all the rest, wounded, bleeding, and, to all human appearance, almost ready to expire. These thoughts at times have pressed so heavily upon me that I have often been driven to the solitary and silent grove, where, unseen and unheard by any save my God, I have endeavored to pour forth my wants and my woes before his gracious throne. My fervent prayer, I think, has, been at such times, that he would restore to me the joy of his salvation, preserve his children, build up the seemingly desolate walls of Zion, raise up and set faithful watchmen upon them that would declare all the counsel of God.
In contrasting our present situation and circumstances with the above described ones, I have been prompted to ask, Has he who is seated upon a matchless throne of eternal majesty and excellent glory, stooped to listen to the lispings of a worm, a sinful worm of the dust? If so, what thanks can I render for such signal mercy shown? Now, the furious tornadoes and the icy fetters seem to have yielded to the milder influence of the warmer breezes, and it looks like “the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land.” Many of those who were hid in the solitude are showing themselves, and occasionally there is one added by baptism; and better still, if possible, to me, the Lord gave us a clear manifestation at our last meeting that he had called one of our brethren to the work of the ministry, one of tried veracity, established moral character, and sound in the faith. Brother Joshua L. Hickman, son of Eld. Joshua Hickman, (one of your former correspondents, who now rests from his labors) was accordingly liberated by the church to exercise his gift and we think that the prospect of his usefulness in his Master's vineyard is very flattering. O that Israel's God may sustain, and make him an able minister of the New Testament. In no part of my life have I witnessed so visible a display of divine interposition in the defense of Zion and her children as has been exhibited to us in this neighborhood.
It appears to me that Israel should take encouragement from these things, and remember when exposed to furious billows, howling tempests and dismal darkness, that the day and the night are all alike to the all-seeing, all-powerful and ever-present God, “who holds the water in the hollow of his hand, metes out heaven with the span, comprehends the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance.” “Cry aloud and shout, O inhabitant of Zion; great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.”
“Hell from beneath may vent her spite,
And all her legions roar;
The world, the flesh and sin unite,
And concentrate their power.
Stronger is he that is in you,
Than he that's in the world;
His grace will bear you conqueror through,
His banner's still unfurled.
The gales of love shall waft you on,
O'er night's dark raging sea,
Till all the storms of night are gone,
And you in endless day.”
I transmit to you the above with all its imperfections, penned in haste; for it is now high time for me to start to meeting. I am well aware that it carries weakness and imperfection on its face, and therefore place it entirely at your disposal, and still hope to remain, although unworthy, your companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.
J. F. JOHNSON.