Lawrenceburg, Ky., Jan., 1869.
MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - I venture to resume my pen once more, for the purpose of presenting through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, to your numerous patrons, and more especially to brother D. C. Byram, of Ohio, my views on Mat. xiii. 44:
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field."
Brother Byram requested through the SIGNS, almost a year ago, that I should write on this subject; but from the obscurity of my mind on the subject at the time, as well as from some other considerations, I neglected to comply with his request, and ought probably to have apologized to my brother for my negligence. More recently, however, my mind from some cause has been led more particularly to that portion of revelation, and I cannot feel justifiable in withholding such light as may be afforded me on that or other portions of the scriptures. It is true that, for reasons that I need not here name, I have for some time past felt disinclined to write for the SIGNS, and even now feel some misgivings, some timorous apprehensions that an old, weak and imperfect sinner may inadvertently say something that will prove to be "a stumbling block" against which the toes of some tender-footed brother may be bruised. But, notwithstanding these fears, I will try once more to gratify a highly esteemed brother, and any others that may feel any interest at all in what I may have to say, provided you see proper to indulge me with space in the medium of correspondence which we so highly appreciate here. My desire is to keep out of sight the object of merely pleasing or displeasing any one, and honestly and sincerely endeavor to arrive at a correct interpretation of the text under consideration; and as I wish to be brief in my remarks, I shall not comment on the foregoing or following connection, nor very minutely on the verse before us.
My aim is simply to exhibit the treasure hid, the field, and the purchase of that field as parabolically alluded to in the passage; and let me remark right here that to hide is not to lose a thing, for things are generally hidden to secure or preserve them from being lost, to conceal from the gaze, place beyond the scan and out of the reach of such as would take, destroy or harm them in any way. The hider, of course, knows where his treasure is hid, and where to find it. The kingdom of heaven then is like, first, this "treasure hid;" and I conclude so effectually and securely hidden that it never was nor ever can be lost. I suppose it will be conceded by all but work-mongers, who are doing so much to change natural things that can be seen by natural eyes into spiritual ones that cannot, that this treasure alludes to the Lord's "hidden ones," or, in other words, the "hidden man of the heart," or "new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;" constituting that spiritual house, and like all other spiritual things hidden from the gaze, outside of the range of and infinitely beyond the ken of mortal vision. Let us remember that it is "the kingdom of heaven" that is like this treasure hid; and if it is of heaven it is "not of this world;" and of its subjects, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." This treasure constitutes the "holy city, New Jerusalem," which John, when on the Isle of Patmos, saw "coming down from God, out of heaven." The children of this kingdom had their existence, their being, their "dwelling place" in Christ Jesus, and were absolutely and actually (not in purpose only) chosen there "before the foundation of the world," before the dust of the earth was made, or shaped into the form of an earthly Adam. The two Adams spoken of in the scriptures are essentially and radically different; one earthly, the other heavenly; the first natural, the second spiritual; and there is precisely the same difference in their respective off-spring, each producing "after his kind," like every other thing, whether in the vegetable or animal creation, and it is no more clearly evinced in the scriptures that the seed or family of the first Adam existed in him after the foundation of the world, than it is that the seed or family of the Second existed in him before the foundation of the world, for the first Adam, with the, entire embodiment of his family in him, exhibits a complete "figure of him that was to come." I know that Arminians quibble and shuffle when we speak of the existence of a spiritual seed in the spiritual head, and that the offspring, like its progenitor, "is spirit," just as the offspring of the fleshly head, like its progenitor, "is flesh," and thorough-going ones even claim to be, flesh as they are, the producers (instrumentally, as they say) of the spiritual family. Others, who are not willing to go so far as to claim to be producers or manufacturers of spiritual children out of fleshly ones, seem to contend that the flesh is changed to spirit by a birth; for if the fleshly man is born of the Spirit he is spirit; and those who advocate that sentiment will have plenty of help outside of the little flock, and of the Bible too, to assist them; for I have never conversed with an Arminian on the subject yet, but what was "in for it." But the idea appears to me to be an anomaly, a departure from the rule that God has established throughout the universe, which is, that everything that is born is like its parent. But palpably as is this sentiment stamped upon the whole visible creation, work-mongers will oppose it because it is true, and opposed to their converting theory of changing natural into spiritual children; and they are always found on the side of error. I have lived to see two factions depart from the faith of the gospel, or of Old School Baptists, one on the subject of missionism, the other on that of means; and there are yet spared a few of my contemporaries with my humble self who well remember how eagerly the proselyting community drew their swords and bent their bows to slay the upright, and the sequel is now palpable; for those amongst us who were too charitable to disown the strange bantlings, are gone out from us, mingled, married and amalgamated with the daughters of the mother of harlots; and I think it not very unsafe for those who have no better way of deciding who is right, to watch which way work-mongers go, and then go the other way. This treasure, constituting this "nation that was born at once," this chosen generation, holy nation, &c., composing that "spiritual house," that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, is not the earthly house or tabernacle in which it is hid, and which must be dissolved, which was created in and simultaneously with the earthy Adam; for those are "from above," these from beneath; those are heavenly, these earthy; those are spiritual, these natural; those shall never die, these must die, for dust they are and unto dust they shall return. This spiritual house, then, is not a natural or fleshly one; it was chosen in Christ before there was any flesh; nor is it a time one, for it existed in him before there was any time. Now, in attending to the second proposition, the field, let us not lose sight of the plain import of the expression, "The kingdom of heaven." It is a simple sentence, composed of words easily understood; and I suppose that when the words are used on other occasions none would fail to understand them. For instance, I know not how often when far from my present home I have been introduced to my brethren as "brother Johnson of Kentucky," and I suppose that it was understood every time that I was from Kentucky. Who could understand the expression otherwise? And yet, when this kingdom is spoken of as coming from heaven, some begin to fuss and flutter and contend that it is manufactured here on earth by changing natural or fleshly persons into spiritual or heavenly ones. If I believed so I would go to proselyting on the arminian plan with all my energies.
In speaking of this field are we to consider it and the treasure hid therein without making any distinction between them? I cannot without doing violence to the language. I think that the foregoing quotations and remarks show conclusively that there is a marked difference between the outward and inward, or old and new man, and that the treasure and field are well calculated to present an appropriate emblem of the complex character called a saint or christian. As "God is a spirit," and that which is "born of God," "born of the Spirit is spirit," and as "the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead" dwells in us, and as our "outward man" is shown by the scriptures to be the temple for the Holy Ghost to dwell in, an "earthly house," a tabernacle, how suitable and significant the emblem, how forcible its tendency to lead us, yea, force us to the conclusion that the field is illustrative of the old man and the treasure of the new.
But this parable does not stand alone as being so indicative of the complexity of the people of God in their time state. We may see the same class of emblematical portraits permeating the whole book of revelation. A garden, with the fruits and flowers contained therein, teaches the same lesson. See Cant. iv. 12, 13. "A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed." "Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard." Here is shown one garden, typifying one church; but who can fail to mark the difference between the mere plot, or soil, and the rich variety of fruits, flowers and perfumery contained therein; and who so inconsiderate as not to observe that without the implantation of seed to produce those fruits, &c., that the mere soil would be as unproductive of these fruits, as barren as is our fleshly nature as to producing any of the fruits of the Spirit without the implanting of the spiritual seed.
Again, there is in the preceding part of this same chapter in which our text stands, as well as in the fourth chapter of Mark and thirteenth of Luke, instructing lessons for us on the same subject; and then, in the same chapters, we have the parable of the woman with her leaven and meal; and how forcibly that parable symbolizes the same people or church; and how precisely it illustrates the experience of every subject of grace! There is the meal in the vessel, no commotion, no activity, like our paralyzed natures; but along comes the woman with her leaven, and then begins the fermentation. How striking the similarity when the "holy seed," or spirit that is "born of God," is placed within us. Then begins the inward commotion which we all so palpably realize in our experience, and which must finally be as effectual as is the leaven that leavens the whole lump.
Here, then, is one that is born of the flesh and is flesh, earthy, answering to the field; and here is another that is born of the Spirit and is spirit, answering to treasure hid in the field. So plainly is the fact that "the generation of Adam" and "the generation of Jesus Christ" compose this complex character of the people of God, taught in the scriptures, that the whole volume abounds with the most lively representations of the same. The holy writers, imbued with the spirit of inspiration, begin the record with instructions that in the bud of time, the blossoming and maturity of the fruit of creation, the great AUTHOR commenced the revelation of himself in the grass, the herbs, the trees, the fish, the fowls and the beasts; each containing its seed in itself, each producing its offspring after its kind, and crowns the whole with the formation and vitalizing of the first man with all his seed in himself, the forcible, strong and striking "figure," or type of HIM, the great archetype with "his seed" in himself. Then, time and space would fail me to trace the record of those "holy men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," who seem literally to have ransacked creation and the vocabulary of language to find emblems and expressions to present to our view the striking portraits of the saint or church while in a state of pilgrimage, the legitimate offspring of these two respective heads. Thus we have an old and new, an outward and inward man; an earthly house or tabernacle with its inhabitants, a temple with its inmate, an earthen vessel with its treasure contained within, flesh and spirit lusting against each other; the company of two armies in the Shulamite, and many other emblems and expressions used in the scriptures, making the matter so manifest that the church of Christ as a body, while led by the Spirit of God, has in all ages past felt, and will in all to come feel in the experience of each member its truthfulness.
Besides, to deny this position will lead us into inextricable difficulty in harmonizing the scriptures. One may believe that the soul is born of God; and if that is the case, and we sin afterward, we must sin without a soul, for that cannot sin if such be the fact. Another, that it is the mind. Can we sin without a mind? A third, that it is the whole natural man. If so, he is no more flesh, but spirit like its father. Then how are we to reconcile the two texts in I John i. 8, "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;" and iii. 9, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Arminians harp much upon the subject of changing the heart or other faculties, or the whole natural man, so as to make him something else than a sinner. It is the hobby upon which they gallop, or "galley with oars" on which they float when compassing land and sea in all their proselyting excursions; and they say (some of them) that the change is so complete that they have not sinned for months, and, as one said in Ohio where I once had some meetings, "for fourteen years;" but this theory will never do for those who "groan, being burdened" with the weight of this "old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" that war against the spirit; for the Bible says nothing about such a change, a birth has never produced such a one in anything that ever was born; the experience of all christians teaches them that they are still sinners, the chief of sinners, as each one is ready to acknowledge; and the figure that the Lord has used ought to teach us that if he should take us in hand and change all our natural faculties and powers into spiritual ones, there would not be the smallest semblance of a birth in the whole process. But perhaps I have dwelt long enough upon the nature of the treasure and of this field or earth that is so prone to produce "wild grapes," "wild gourds," or some other noxious production quite different from "the fruits of the Spirit," and will try to consider, thirdly, the purchase of the field.
Of course I must conclude that the man that bought this field was designed to prefigure Christ, who purchased his people, and that was a redemption purchase. And let it be remembered that it is the field that was bought, for there is nothing said in the parable about buying the treasure. I cannot agree with Mr. Parker's theory that the seed of the second Adam or his spiritual children were "put forth in Adam (the first) and fell there, and that all that fell in Adam will be restored in Christ." Adam's children are all like himself, natural, earthy; not spiritual, not heavenly. These children are "born of God," and are spirit, born of incorruptible seed, therefore are incorruptible, "cannot sin;" they come down from God as Christ did, and when "born of God" are "partakers of flesh and blood," as Christ "took part of the same," and I can find no intimation in the scriptures that they ever had an existence in Adam or any of his children until "born from above," (as the margin reads,) but that they have ever been "preserved in Christ Jesus," and consequently needed no redemption. But the first Adam, the earthy, natural, created man, with all his children like himself created in him in the morning of time, (not chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world,) transgressed the law of God, fell under its curse, and unless redeemed that law must wreak its fiery vengeance on them forever. These, or just "as many as were ordained to eternal life," were Christ's, not by lineal descent, as I understand, but by the gift of his Father. Said he, "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." In this relation they wandered off from him and became strangers, foreigners, aliens. This does not look like he had been their "dwelling place in all generations;" but their sins, their iniquities were charged to or laid on him, and "his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree," yea, "suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God," from whom we had strayed so far and so fearfully. He "gave himself for us," and this looks like giving all he had to buy the field. Now the voice of inspiration can say to us, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." This field, these natural children when found by him were "children of wrath even as others." He found them in a desert land, a waste, howling wilderness; but by the culture of the husbandman, the planting of a good or "holy seed," the wilderness, the solitary place is made glad, the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose. The fruit of this holy seed when matured is most charming, most delightful. Here we find love, joy, peace, long suffering, goodness, &c. But like all other earth, this field has a natural tendency to produce noxious, poisonous growths; so that the hand, the vigilant, diligent hand of the husbandman is daily and nightly required to keep them down; but he "neither slumbers nor sleeps," and so faithfully and effectually will that hand be applied that he will finally and effectually destroy all its propensity to produce those baneful growths. This field is his own. His, first by gift, then lost by transgression, then his by purchase or redemption. And O, what a price, what a matchless price he paid! "Gave his life," "gave himself," shed his precious blood. O, wondrous love!
"Love moved him to die, and on this we rely;
Our Jesus hath loved us, we cannot tell why;
But this we can tell, that he loved us so well,
As to lay down his life to redeem us from hell."
But he had power to take it up again, has conquered death, and was "the first born from the dead." And, my dear brother Byram, sisters, all, if we are of those who "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth," we must realize just such a birth. Then, and not till then, shall we realize fully "the redemption of the purchased possession," "the redemption of our body," for which we must "wait." But let us wait patiently, hopefully, confidentially. Remember our Elder Brother has said, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death." Until our vile body is changed, and fashioned like unto his glorious body, the warfare must go on, the battle must rage between the flesh and the spirit. In this conflict we must pass through the waters, and though the billows may roll high, they shall not overflow us; and through the fire, vehemently as it may blaze, we shall not be burnt, neither shall the flames kindle upon us. The din of battle must hush at his mandate, the flashing flames cool down at his nod, and the furious billows be calm at his bidding.
"Though now unseen by outward sense,
Faith sees him always near;
A guide, a glory, a defense,
Then what have you to fear?"
The treasure is hid, the field purchased, he will have his own.
Brother Beebe, please excuse the clumsiness and incongruity of the foregoing. It has been written by piecemeal, and for the greater part hurriedly. My love to yourself, family, and all the saints.
J. F. JOHNSON.