Lawrenceburg, Ky., November, 1863.
BROTHER BEEBE: - My views are again solicited on a parable, and one that I know not that I understand. Limited as my views are on the subject proposed, I cannot say that I have none, and will therefore try to comply with the request of my sister as well as I can. In the 18th number of the current volume of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES it is said:
"Will Eld. J. F. Johnson of Kentucky please give his views through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES on the parable of the servants to whom the talents were given, especially the one that hid his talent in the earth? This parable is recorded in the 25th chapter of Matthew."
I have heard considerable preaching about the individual who received the one talent, but not by any one who I thought preached the truth. All the work-mongers that I have heard on the subject, (and I believe they are all I have heard on it) conclude that every man has one talent given him, which they generally call "the light of nature," and that, by improving, they might add to it, and receive the plaudit, "Well done, good and faithful servant," &c. But this accords with the general theory of salvation "by works of righteousness which we have done," which we know to be all wrong, all a delusive fabrication. If the one talent is a talent of nature, the two would be two talents of nature, and the five, five talents of nature; making all natural; no grace, no spirit in the case. Still in harmony with the working theory; for one talent does not differ from two or five, in kind; the difference is only in a valuable consideration. Five talents are worth more than one, still they are no better in kind. If then, the one talent is "the light of nature," the two would illustrate that light in a two-fold, and the five in a five-fold degree. Admitting that to be the case, the parable would teach us that the poor fellow having the light of nature in but one degree would receive nothing, while he that has it in two degrees would receive double, and, likewise, he that has five. Then, "the wise and prudent," from whom the Lord has hid these things, (of the Spirit) would receive all, and the weak, or babes, to whom they are revealed, nothing. The rich would be filled with good things, and the poor sent empty away. All in harmony with the Arminian theory, yet all the complete counterplot to the truth as it is revealed in the scriptures.
My views on the subject, however, are very different from the foregoing ones, and as mine are solicited, I will try to give them. I do not think that the parable under consideration is applicable to mere individuals. My opinion is that the character who was said to receive the one talent, (as that is the one that my sister requests me to speak of particularly) is a good exponent of the Jewish nation, and the one talent indicative of the scriptures; "because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." Those oracles constituted a rich gift that the Lord bestowed on that people. Hence Moses says, "For what nation is so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day?" But what advancement did they make upon the rich endowment? Said Stephen, when they were about to stone him, "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And have slain them that shewed before the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers; who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it." Instead of regulating their worship by the instruction that the Lord gave them, they taught for doctrines the commandments of men; and instead of regulating their conduct by the laws that God had given them, they transgressed the commandment of God by their traditions. Thus, amid the sable shades of the doctrines and commandments of men, and the opaque lowerings of earthly tradition, they hid the talent that was given them from heaven.
Although I think the Jews as a nation were particularly exemplified by the individual who hid his lord's money in the earth, yet as the theory is so congenial with the aspiring nature of depraved man, it is not marvelous that the Gentiles, after the scriptures had obtained a respectable notoriety, should eagerly grasp the monstrous hallucination and enlarge upon the theory, that the purposes and works of God are not sufficient in themselves to accomplish the great work of salvation; but to aid in its consummation, earthly inventions, earthly means, earthly instrumentalities, must be brought into requisition to change, if possible, the truth of God into a lie, to hide beneath the dark shroud of those earthly instrumentalities, or conceal among the murky mists of the doctrines and commandments of men the living witnesses (the Old and New Testaments) that God has given for a testimony to Zion.
The Mother of Harlots steps forward in the execution of the nefarious work, and among the first of her diabolical deeds was to destroy the ordinance of baptism, significant emblem, appropriate directory, not only to the burial and resurrection of the body of the Lord Jesus, but also to cause the weary pilgrim to look forward to his final resting place, his "sleep in Jesus," and the luminous dawn of the resurrection morn, when the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead shall quicken this mortal body, and change and fashion it like his glorious body. This impressive ordinance was changed into the unmeaning practice of sprinkling unconscious babies or graceless adults, although originally designed for the burial by baptism of his believing children only. Then comes up the unhallowed idea of the "conversion of the world," and "holy crusades" are set on foot to accomplish the abomination under the lead of blood-thirsty men by the blood-shedding sword.
The heart sickens while retrospecting the bloody scenes that trailed in the wake of this earthly, sensual, and we may say devilish idea, which scenes were too numerous as well as too black for this communication. But I will here add, that the unscriptural notion of converting the world by the instrumentality of men has been transmitted from the mother down to her Protestant daughters, and they have endeavored to carry on the unscriptural work, it is true, by less violent, but more subtle means, yet equally unauthorized by the divine code. The very idea of "christianizing the world" by those unholy and anti-scriptural means is repugnant to the true sense of Christianity and belligerent to the spirit of the Bible. All the machinations and organizations that have been gotten up to consummate the illegitimate object, by whatever possible names they may be called, whether Missionary Society, Bible Society, or any other society, with all the fine spun arguments and apparent zeal and sanctity that can be used, and however they may charm the proud hearts, and however pleasant the sound to the itching ears of graceless professors of religion, while they are unauthorized by the divine record, are earthy, and only calculated to hide the scriptures in the earth - conceal them amid the rubbish of those measures. It is said of the character who hid the talent, "Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Retributive judgment commensurate with the sentence was meted out to the Jewish nation to the uttermost, who remain in outer darkness to this day; and the same doom awaits all who persist in a similar course. The parable may teach us that the natural man, although he may have every faculty that learning, talent, money or missionism can afford him, will not receive the things of the Spirit, cannot know them, and therefore will make no advances, no progress in rendering true or acceptable service to God. There must be a gift bestowed in addition to the scriptures, and then we may look for advancement; not until then.
Having used so much ink and paper in treating upon the character on which my sister desired my views especially, I will endeavor briefly to notice the other two.
I suppose that the servant who had the two talents given him, was designed to represent the believing Jews, and the additional gift bestowed upon them was life from the dead, as nothing short of that will quicken or accelerate the dead to action, or qualify any to make the least progression in the service of God. The bestowal of that gift enabled them to render to God the things that were his, and therefore give unto him the praise and glory that is due to his exalted name.
But the Gentile christians were blessed with still additional gifts, for they were not only to receive their brethren of the circumcision into everlasting habitations, but the different gifts that were requisite for the edifying of the body of Christ. Hence I conclude that he who received five talents was a representative of them. I think that the sequel of the parable fully justifies this conclusion, for it was said of the unprofitable servant, "Take, therefore, the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents." Was not the oracles of God taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles? When Paul preached the word of God to the unbelieving Jews at Antioch in Pisidia, they were, filled with envy, spake against the things that were spoken by him, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles; for so hath God commanded us," &c. As the oracles of God were to be taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles, as the believing Jews were to find an asylum among them, and as the church of God, the ground and pillar of the truth was to be perpetuated there, it was necessary that a larger portion of gifts should be conferred upon them for the comfort and edification of the body of Christ. In order to this five particular ones are specified by the apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians, iv. 10, in which are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The Gentiles being thus blessed with gifts, have every necessary qualification to enable them to add to their faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, brotherly kindness, charity, and all the graces that adorn the christian profession.
Dear brethren and sisters, if the Lord has thus blessed us with rich gifts from the store of his abounding grace and mercy, let us not be idle, but diligent in adding to our profession and faith those necessary and useful appendages that we may be neither barren nor unfruitful in the work of the Lord.
With but little light on the subject, and that little (if I have any) perhaps obscured by the intrusion of other business that has frequently called me away, so that I have had to write by piecemeal, with sometimes long intervening intervals, I have tried to comply with the request of sister Jefferson, who I hope, with others that may look over the production, will carefully compare it with the word of truth, and approbate or disapprobate as that word may dictate. But, brother Beebe, it is first submitted entirely to your disposal.
Permit me to say, in conclusion, that since I came here our meetings in this vicinity have generally been pleasant and interesting; our houses when the weather was good have been crowded to overflowing, and then sometimes containing but little over half the attendants. The congregations have been apparently very attentive, too, and within the last few months I have had the pleasure of baptizing five of the Lord's dear children, who gave to the churches very satisfactory evidence of the power of reigning grace in delivering them from the power of darkness, and translating them into the kingdom of God's dear Son, and we are expecting and hoping that others will soon follow the commendable example that they have set. We desire to feel both humble and grateful to the Lord for the tokens of his favor conferred upon us in view of all our unworthiness.
Though unworthy, permit me to remain your brother in the Lord,
J. F. JOHNSON.