Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, Jan. 28, 1866.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." - Matt. vi. 33.
BROTHER BEEBE: - Some time has elapsed since I troubled you with a communication; not for want of a sincere desire for the SIGNS OF THE TIMES to be perpetuated, nor yet because I have not appreciated the contents of our valuable corresponding medium, but simply because I cannot write on the sublime and momentous subjects discussed in their columns as I would wish to, nor as some of your correspondents do.
There have been a number of requests published in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and communicated to me in private letters, for my views through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES on different texts of scripture, that I have not responded to; but my failure to do so was not because of a careless indifference or disregard of the requests of my brethren, sisters or friends, but for two other reasons. First, some desired my views on texts that I thought I did not sufficiently comprehend myself, to attempt to teach others; and secondly, other requests were made when I was from home, and traveling from place to place for two or three months, when I had not much opportunity to write. I hope, therefore, they will excuse me. I will, however, present to your readers a few of my thoughts on the text placed at the head of this article.
It is a portion of what is usually called Christ's sermon on the mount, delivered exclusively to his disciples, and no doubt designed for their exclusive benefit in all ages of the world. Just before using the language referred to, he assures them of the fraternal and provident care he exercises toward them in reminding them of the provision he has made for the fowls of the air, that neither sow, reap, nor gather into barns, and that yet he feeds them; and of the flowers of the valley, that neither toil or spin, and yet, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of them. He hath prepared for them a city, kingdom or house, as it is interchangeably called, to dwell in. In that house are many mansions, affording room and accommodation, convenience and comfort to all the inmates. Therein is provided the best, the very best of food, drink and clothing, all "without money and without price." Moreover, it is so constructed as to form a most desirable asylum of rest for the weary, those who "labor and are heavy laden." Here they lie down in green pastures, are led beside still waters; and as a place of defense it is an invulnerable munition of rocks, environed with invincible walls and bulwarks. They abide under the shadow of the Almighty, have a secure hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest; a pure river of water of life glides through the kingdom; the eternal God is the Refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
"Nor can her deep foundation move,
Built on his Godhead and his love."
But above all, the delightful companions that are there to cheer and encourage, console and raise up the bowed down, should engage and attract our attention.
"There our best friends, our kindred dwell,
There God our Savior reigns."
Another happy and consoling reflection is that the King has promised that it shall be a "quiet habitation." The wars, commotions, strife and discord that agitate the world, terrify its inhabitants, and line the earth with gore, are to be hushed into silence, banished thence forever. Swords are to be beaten into plow-shares, spears into pruning-hooks; the nations, Jews and Gentiles, that compose the kingdom, are to learn war with carnal weapons no more. Let us all try to appreciate the quietude of the kingdom, and like David, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces; for my brethren and companions' sake I will say, Peace be within thee." To those who are taught to love "peace and pursue it," here is an alluring and attracting asylum. It is one of the many characteristic marks that distinguish the kingdom of God from all other organizations - a fruit of the Spirit, it proves the presence of the God of peace. As God hath said, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Yes, in this kingdom is the residence of the King of saints, the Author of eternal salvation, in whom dwells "the fullness of the Godhead bodily," from whom proceeds every "good and perfect gift "- all the real joy that we realize on earth, all that we anticipate when time is no more.
"How charming is the place,
Where my Redeemer, God,
Unveils the beauties of his face,
And sheds his love abroad."
How meager, how trifling and vain is the pomp, power, wealth and splendor of this poor world, when compared with the place where Jesus holds his court and pours out his fullness. "For it pleased the Father that in him all fullness should dwell." "I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple."
Having tried to exhibit some of the blessings and privileges of the kingdom of God, let us now consider the best method, as well as the great advantage of seeking it first - of giving it the pre-eminence over all terrestrial things. In order to the peace, prosperity, enjoyment and mutual felicity of the subjects of this kingdom, a strict observance must be paid to the doctrine, laws, ordinances and particular rules for the government of the kingdom, according to the statute given by the King who reigns in righteousness, and the princes who rule in judgment. These princes are to sit on twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. "For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David." As before remarked, this is to be a quiet habitation, and the King thereof has made ample provision to secure this quietude, for "he shall send forth his angels, (messengers) and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity." If, therefore, a right hand (a laborer) offends, it must be cut off, or a right eye, (a watchman) pluck it out, for such are the most dangerous offenders when they do offend. If he should be merely an erring brother, he will weep, and repent of his wickedness, and may be restored in the spirit of meekness; but if he be a false teacher, or false brethren who have crept in to spy out the liberty of the subjects, they will gnash their teeth, and develop hatred, variance, wrath, strife, seditious, heresies and envyings, with other works of the flesh, and not infrequently call to their aid the cohorts of Babylon to destroy the kingdom and its inhabitants. By their fruits they will make themselves known, and when known, we are not to give place to them by subjection for an hour. For the sake of perpetuating the peace, unity and comfort of the kingdom, these rules must be punctually observed and faithfully enforced. I think it would be well for each subject in such cases to "raise both hands," as said an aged watchman in Virginia, "one for peace, the other for war." Peace, if it can be obtained by peaceable measures, if not, war; not with carnal weapons, "for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal;" but unsheath the sword of the Spirit, take the word of God, for it is "quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." By the proper use of this formidable weapon, every joint, band or ligament that might in any manner or degree bind us to Babylon or any of her cohorts, may be summarily severed, and as a consequence the kingdom of God would shine forth in all her pristine beauty and glory, "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." The King has richly endowed his kingdom with all requisite rules for the regulation of her doctrine, reproof and instruction in righteousness, that each subject may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works; and now, at this very time in which we live, dark and lowering as the clouds may seem to hover over, thick and gloomy as the mists and shades may be gathered round us, in my humble opinion the signs of the times indicate, identify and point out the kingdom of God as diverse from all other kingdoms as it has been at any time since the days of the apostolic miracles, and under circumstances when, according to the nature of surrounding events, the very reverse of her present condition might be expected. Priestcraft and fanaticism have ridden triumphant through the streets and lanes of the daughters of Babylon for years gone by, and what has been the result? Within their cage have been political differences, conflicting interests, antagonistical doctrines, and jarring localities. The opposing elements have met in terrific collision. The feeble cords that have united them have snapped and given way with the tension. Alienation, strife and seditions have done their work, produced their legitimate fruit, torn them piecemeal, rent them to shreds, they have manifestly hatched the cockatrice's eggs, and that which is crushed has broken out a viper. "Their works are works of iniquity, and acts of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths." Babylon stands out conspicuously written in their foreheads or proceedings. Yes, this viper has crawled from its slimy lair, and with fangs imbued with the poison of asps has thrown the deadly bane into both civil and anti-christian religious organizations, and they are all confusion. Turning from this cage of unclean and hateful birds, tottering to its downfall, with joy we behold,
"A kingdom that shall never decay,
While time sweeps earthly thrones away."
This superstructure is built by Omnipotence. It was said long ago, "The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed nor left to other people." The God of Israel has raised her above the low and beggarly elements and pestilential atmosphere in which the daughters of Babylon reside, established her in the top of the mountains, exalted her above the hills. None of her stakes shall ever be removed, none of the cords thereof broken. She stands upon the Rock of Ages; her God and King has built her there. His name is her strong tower; she has run into it and is safe. The rain has descended, the floods came, the winds (of false doctrine) blew, and beat upon it, and it fell not with the general crash, for it was founded upon a rock. There she has stood, there she now stands, and there she will forever stand, a monument of the omnipotency of her King and the invincibility of her fortifications. The spirit of strife and the demon of discord that have torn to pieces and rent asunder the kingdoms of anti-christ, forming out of the same heterogeneous mass churches North and churches South, have had but little to do in alienating the subjects of this kingdom from each other, or weakening the cords of brotherly love that knit them together. And while their secular interests have clashed, as did the interests of others whose feeble cords gave way, and while their different locations have, according to the usual course of events, been naturally calculated to produce strife and animosities, as has been the case in the ranks of Babylon, all these conflicting interests, all the preference of jarring and different localities have been by the subjects of this kingdom thrown to the wind; and now, whether they hail from north or south, east or west, they eagerly and warmly grasp each other's hand in concord, friendship, fellowship and sweet union. Who is so blind as not to see in all this a clear, visible and outward demonstration of the fact that the kingdom of God is first with this people; that earthly preferences and worldly emoluments are but secondary matters compared with it, and therefore must yield and give place to that which is first, or most momentous? I tell you, my dear brethren and sisters, that it is a telling fact, one that stands out prominent and visible before the gaze of all men, as the King of this kingdom has said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another." And who is so dim-sighted as not to see that those whose religious ties have given way to their first, or political or worldly preferences, are not of that kingdom? And where is the organized religious body (I speak of what Paul calls "our religion,") that has not carried this spirit of strife and bloodshed into their pulpits and their churches? I ask, Where, under the blue heavens, is it to be found, outside of the Old School or Primitive Baptists? That some important event will soon succeed this ocular and outward display and manifestation of the presence of the God of peace in his kingdom, I have but little doubt; but, what that event may be, I shall not here attempt to predict. That this spirit of peace, concord, amity and unity does exist in an unusual degree amongst us under the circumstances surrounding us, is palpable and unmistakable. I have witnessed it in my travels among this people, and trust that I have felt it in my heart. True, there have been some very few isolated cases where individuals have caught the spirit of fanaticism and grasped the weapons of the sable adversary to fight us with, but they are few and far between, not enough to disturb the general peace of the kingdom or obscure its identity, but barely sufficient to prove to us the truth of the assertion of Paul when he said, "Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." And of John when he said, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us," &c. When they do go out, they seldom fail to give sufficient evidence by which the children of the kingdom may demonstrate them. If they are false teachers or false brethren that have come in unawares to spy out our liberties, they prove to be the most inveterate enemies to the children of the kingdom. They will call on, amalgamate with, and use all the venomous poison of the cohorts of Babylon, all the sophistry to bewitch and draw a party or clan of disciples after them; and where such fruits are developed, the children of the kingdom should mark them and have no fellowship with them. By their fruits they are to be known, and will be. On the other hand, if they be erring brethren, they will not rail and try to devour the flock, but exhibit the marks of penitence and show more of a lamb-like disposition; and, as is generally the case, such a one may be restored in the spirit of meekness, lest he be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. When we consider the inroads that fanaticism has made, the railing and rending that it has produced among the professed religious orders of our country, it is almost miraculous that so few cases have occurred to disturb our harmony; and those few have been so minutely defined and so pointedly condemned by the King and his princes, who have foretold that such cases should occur in the church or kingdom, that they stand out as testimonials and prove to us where the kingdom is and who compose it, and therefore, though painful at this critical juncture, should not discourage us; for they are among the all things that work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose. "It must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." But, my dear brethren, when offenses come, meet them like christians. Suffer them not to disturb the general peace of the kingdom. As to those who offend, deal with them promptly and faithfully as your Lawgiver directs, regardless of consequences; and then, "Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be afraid of their reviling;" but when they revile, revile not again. "Render not evil for evil, nor railing for railing;" and may the Lord continue to bless us with a peaceable, plentiful, prosperous, safe and happy home in the kingdom of God, for which let us all pray, for his great name's sake.
J. F. JOHNSON.