Lawrenceburg, Ky., Jan. 1876.
MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - With the remittances that I send for the SIGNS, I will offer a few words of comment on two words; the first found in the book of Judges, ii. 5, which is Bochim; and the other in 1 Sam. vii. 12, which is Ebenezer. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for his people, and the words named constitute a part of the whole, and if we can apply them appropriately they may among many others profit at least some of his people. Those words were significant, as were, most of the names of both persons and places in those ancient times. In the first chapter of the book of Judges, after the death of Joshua, the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, "Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up; behold, I have delivered the land into his hand. Judah seems to have been successful in driving the Canaanites from the mountains, but not from the valleys. I have no idea that the land of Canaan was typical of heaven, the final and eternal abode of the people of God, as many suppose, but I do think it prefigured the gospel church day and state. Judah (our Lord sprang out of Judah) drove the Canaanites (indicative of our sins) from the mountain, (the church) but not from the valley; did not make a general or Fullerite atonement, in other words. But neither did Manasseh, nor Ephriam, nor Zebulun, nor Asher, nor Naphtali, drive them out from the valley, but dwelt with them and made them tributary.
It seems to me that in this circumstance there is a clear illustration of the course pursued by work-mongers or worldly religionists who can not only live amicably with their sins, but actually make those sins yield them an illicit tribute of "filthy lucre." But while this state of things was going on, an angel (messenger in the margin, the angel of his presence, or messenger of the covenant) came to Bochim and reminded the Jews of his having delivered them from Egypt, his bringing them to the land that he sware to their fathers, that they should make no league with the inhabitants of the land, but should throw down their altars; but they had not obeyed his voice, and he asks, "Why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you, but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you." "And it came to pass when the angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice and wept. And they called the name of that place BOCHIM. And they sacrificed there unto the Lord." This word Bochim signifies "weepers," or, "the place of weeping." Now, if it is the case, which I think it undoubtedly is, that the land of Canaan and the Jewish people constituted the old heaven and the old earth that has passed away, and that that land and people were typical of the church, or new heaven and earth, and that the Canaanites that dwelt therein were emblematical of the sins of God's people which subjects them to an incessant warfare while here, it will not be difficult for the subjects of grace to look over their past experience and find their Bochims, or places of weeping, whether they have been actually ensnared by the arminian imaginary gods and taken up their residence among them or not; it makes but little difference, for by nature, whether professors or non-professors, all have the same belief substantially, the same religion, which the apostle calls "our religion." All can live pleasantly with their sins, as did the Jews in the valleys with the Canaanites, and the Rev. managers of the clique that ran the machinery can actually make their sins (false doctrines, hypocrisy and men made institutions, which are the worst of sins) yield them a golden or greenback tribute, as the Jews did the Canaanites. But when the Lord makes his people feel the thorns in their sides, makes them acquainted with their sins that pierce them continually, yea, that prick them in their very hearts, they soon find their Bochim. The keen arrows of conviction penetrate their very vitals, and in deep anguish they can cry in the language of the poet,
"By wandering I have lost myself,
And here I make my moan;
O! whither, whither have I strayed;
Ah! Lord, what have I done!"
Here is a Bochim indeed, "a place of weeping;" and that is indelibly imprinted upon their minds, can never be forgotten. Well does the humble writer remember this Bochim, though reached near half a century ago. His sins seemed to pierce his very heart. Those sins, dwelling with him as did the Canaanites with the Jews, now goaded him like pricking thorns indeed, and like a weighty mountain pressed down his sinking spirits, while a portentous, dark and ominous cloud appeared to roll from Sinai, freighted with destructive curses, caused him to quake and shudder. Its bellowing thunders and fearful forked flashing lightnings seemed to rumble and flash with vindictive wrath around his doomed head.
"How dreadful now my guilt appears,
In childhood, youth and growing years;
Before thy pure, discerning eye,
Lord, what a guilty wretch am I."
What a Bochim to a poor, justly condemned sinner! But, could ever such a one have appreciated the worth of a Savior without a revelation of his forlorn, hopeless, helpless and lost condition? Now his Canaanite allies wage a terrible war against him. Without are fightings, within are fears. Little does the poor culprit look for anything short of the vindictive wrath, the sin-avenging wrath of a violated law to burst with all its accumulated vehemence upon his guilty head. But unexpectedly, and outside of all his calculations at such time, although the threatening, sullen, gloomy darkness, its pealing thunders and forked lightnings vent their vengeance; but, lo! not on the condemned criminal; no, mercy's Angel stood prepared to receive all its vindictiveness, and we hear the soothing voice proclaim, "The day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come."
"The gloom from the face of the heavens retires,
The winds hush their murmurings, the thunder expires."
The Sun of Righteousness mounts the heavens with healing in his wings, and all is clear, bright, beautiful, calm. Wonderful to tell. A man has become "a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Here is our "Ebenezer," or "stone of help," as the word signifies; and now the liberated captive may sing with the poet,
"Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home."
The circumstances that gave rise to the setting up of this "stone of help" were as follows: Israel had forsaken the Lord that brought them up out of the land of Egypt, and worshiped Baal and Ashtaroth, the gods of the Philistines. The Lord had let them try their own strength against their enemies without him, which resulted in one defeat after another, until they were convinced that their enemies were too strong for them. The ark of the Lord had been taken from them, and Samuel, the prophet, commanded them to gather at Mizpeh, which signifies "a watch tower." When the Philistines heard that Israel had gathered together at Mizpeh, they came up against them. Through Samuel they called upon the Lord and confessed their sins. Then the prophet took a lamb and made a burnt offering to the Lord, and cried unto the Lord, and he heard him. At the offering of the lamb the Philistines drew near to battle, and the Lord thundered upon them with a great thunder and discomfited them. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh and smote the Philistines as far as Bethcar," ["the house of the lamb."] "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpeh ["the watch tower"] and Shen, (signifying "change,") and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
Is not this a typical matter? Were those Philistines typical of our sins, our worst enemies? Did we enlist in the service of the arminian conditional gods as did the Jews in the service of Baal and Ashtaroth? I think all the subjects of grace will say they did. Then did our sins, as the Philistines did upon the Jews, come upon us when we were brought to Mizpeh, a fearful watch tower, and, while there, our sins appear in full array against us, as the Philistines did against the Jews, and while in full view, and terrible dread of them, the Lord thunders with a great thunder upon them, (our sins,) but wonderful to tell, those sins were laid on Jesus, and there the thunderbolts were aimed, there the sword and stroke of Justice must fall. "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered, and I will turn my hand upon the little ones." But are the ends of justice answered here? Most assuredly they are. The stroke must fall upon our enemies, or sins, and they were laid on the Lamb of God. "Himself bear our sins in his own body on the tree." For this reason, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." Here we see justice met in all its demands. Jesus was "made a surety;" and when the debtor fails the surety must meet the lawful claim. He was the Shepherd, and the damages of the sheep must be repaired by him. He was the Bridegroom, and therefore must cancel the debt of his bride. He is the head and life of his people, and must be sacrificed for the capital offenses of his people. Hence the scriptures present a beautiful cluster of figures to illustrate both a legal and vital unity with Christ to his church. "He took on him the seed of Abraham," and therefore "it behooved him to suffer." But so it is, "He suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God," and here we find our Ebenezer, or "stone of help." But how should this amazing condescension melt our hearts in love, wonder and delight. O, how should a sense of our sins that nailed him to the cross smite us with conviction, contrition and deep penitence; when faith beholds him beset by incarnate fiends, eagerly thirsting for his life-blood, while the patient sufferer submits to all the cruelty and indignity without a murmur. "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."
"They nailed him to the accursed tree,
They did, my brethren, so did we;
The soldier pierced his side, 'tis true,
But we have pierced him through and through."
" 'Twere you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormenters were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief a spear."
Whether our sins are the antitypes of the enemies that dwelt in the land of Canaan or not, we know that when they appear in hostile array against us they are too strong for us. But when the "Stone of help" appears, all is well, the victory is won, the triumph complete, and eternal. And while his infallible promise assures us that we shall finally triumph in and through him, we may confidently and joyfully sing,
"He who hath helped me hitherto,
Will help me all my journey through;
And give me daily cause to raise,
New Ebenezers to his praise."
Your friend and brother, I hope, in indissoluble bonds,
J. F. JOHNSON.