At Home, Henry county Ia., Feb. 12, 1849.
BROTHER BEEBE: – Night enshrouds us with its sable mantle, my family are enjoying refreshing slumbers, the voice and bustle of the day has given place to silence; no discordant jargon grates on my ears, the ticking of my time piece, measuring off the fleeting moments, alone is heard. – After some reflection on the multiform movements of Anti-christ in his wayward march, his subtle schemes, and satanic devices against the few that find the strait gate and narrow way, I have concluded, (as the time for annual remittance has come,) to resume my pen, and through the columns of our valuable little messenger, the Signs, try in my much weakness, to make some humble returns to my brethren and sisters, who have heretofore laded so richly the columns of the Signs with freight so admirably adapted to solace the sorrowful minds of the scattered and tempest tossed lambs of the flock; and of which I have frequently been an unworthy participant. How dreary the season, when the mantle of darkness is thrown over us! The innocent flocks and herds, repair to their rest; and while reposing at ease, and locked in slumber, the ferocious beasts of the forest wantonly creep from their lairs, with savage thirst seek eagerly the asylum of the unsuspecting fold. Now, winding through the dense forest, he makes his way to the farm yard and before the headless flock are aware, he is in the midst of them. Soon they feel his merciless fangs; he spares neither the old nor the young, his thirst for blood will not be satisfied with that of one, each taste seems but to sharpen his appetite, and he would feign exterminate the entire race. How necessary is the presence of the attentive shepherd, to rescue and protect the timid and defenceless flock. One is required who is not only acquainted with the weak unarmed condition of the flock, but also with the sly creeping and cunning craftiness of the wolf.
I mention the wolf, because the Lord has used this animal as a suitable figure to represent those characters which so frequently infest, and howl around the Little Flock, and against it use sly insidious and artful measures employed for the purpose of exterminating them from the earth, and of raising up in their stead a worldly and lucrative establishment to bear the title of modern Benevolence, with the design to draw from their deluded followers and admirers their earnings – and of trampling the truth of God under their feet. The present is called an enlightened age; but alas! when we look around, what multitudes we behold ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness. We may truly say, “Darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people.” In this gloomy darkness, and from this dreary wilderness, how often do we witness the creeping forth of the enemy, how frequently have they crept in among us to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus: how seriously have we felt their fearful ravages, and what must have been our inevitable doom, had it not been for the constant care of our ever watchful and faithful Shepherd. He never slumbers nor sleeps, and Israel may now say, “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth; yet they have not prevailed against me,” truly “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and are safe.”
The movements of the enemy throughout Christendom present to the observing eye, a spectacle, at all times and in all places, decidedly opposed to the manner in which Christ effects the salvation and instruction of his people. In the days of Christ and his apostles, life, with all its developments – such as seeing, hearing, feeling and understanding were indispensable qualifications to enable man to realize his own character and condition as a rebellious, lost and helpless sinner; and also to make him acquainted with Christ as the necessary, able, and only Savior. In those days it was taught, that God communicated this life with all its consequences by revealing his Son in his people, according to Gal. i. 15, 16. “When it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me,” &c., and according to 1 John v. 6. “He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life,” also 2 Cor. iv. 6. “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
But in the visible rise of the first beast, according to D’Aubigne and other historians, “It began to be affirmed that salvation was conveyed by means of certain invented forms, and that none could obtain it without resorting to such MEANS.” And also, “that Christ communicated to the apostles, and the apostles to the bishops, the unction of the Holy Spirit, and that this Spirit is found only in this order of communication.” In the beginning it was taught that the Spirit of Christ was necessary to quicken and qualify his people for church membership; afterwards this order was inverted, and it was taught that none could receive the Spirit unless they became church members. It requires no argus to perceive the object of the enemy in this course.
1. To inculcate the idea that the ministers were more than ordinary beings, and thereby enable them to exert a strong influence upon the populace.
2. To swell the number of church members.
3. To levy a tax upon the members thus multiplied that should bring into requisition pecuniary emolument, so that all the power of money, (as it is said, money is power,) might be wielded by antichrist against the truth.
Learning was also seized upon; not for the purpose of elucidating the scriptures; but rather to explain away their native simplicity, and usefulness to christians; to cover them with a sable mantle. Not to doctrinize, reprove, correct and instruct the man of God, according to 2 Tim. iii. 16; but, to terrify and coax into their church those which are without.
Who is there that cannot perceive an identity in the doctrine and practice of the ministry who labored in the rise, and under the influence of the first beast, and those who are now laboring for the rise and progress, and under the influence of the Second? Is not the same means doctrine taught, and for the same purpose of aggrandizing church members? Do we not see a tax levied on those members also? What eye so dim that it cannot perceive that the same exertions are made to idolize the ministry; the very same plans, and schemes, and ways, and means, used for the acquisition of money; and that money to be used in the most artful and hidden way for the suppression and, if possible, extermination of the truth from the face of the earth.
When I speak of the means sentiment, I do not wish to be understood to have reference only to those who were once called Baptists, who have indorsed that heresy; they have only fallen into the ranks – and under the black flag that was hoisted by Papal Rome, and which has had the support of every arminian sect; or, in other words, every daughter of Roman Catholicism, down to modern Mormonism. See what floods of fables float out from the Tract Society, which is sustained by the joint co-operation of all the daughters! With what zeal they labor in every town and village and school house, to turn away the ears of the people from the truth, that they may be turned to these fables! Scarcely a school book can be obtained in the land, from the child’s first book – to the most profound treatise on the sciences, that is not corrupted and poisoned to subserve the same base designs of modern antichrist; so that the infant minds while incapable of resistance, may be fettered down in the darkness of superstition, by the chains of error; allowed to hear no other sound than that of the clanking of their chains, until they by custom shall become charmed and fascinated with them. Literature in its legitimate sphere, is beautiful and cannot be too highly appreciated – but degraded, and forced into the service of antichrist, it loses its charms; its use has been perverted to militate against the truth. What pains have been taken, and what exertions made can “turn the truth of God into a lie.” What great minds are pouring forth the floods of worldly wisdom and laboring to misrepresent the true import of the testimony of God.
In the rise and progress of the first beast, the civil authority was seen to bend, to bow down and kneel, and fall down before the shrine of popery. In the coming of the second beast, our once beloved government is seen already bending, and yielding a portion of its pecuniary power. We are informed that the second shall exercise all the power of the first beast; may we not anticipate the time when our civil institutions will be laid prostrate and powerless before the fell destroyer of the rights of mankind?
Do you, my brother, begin to despond – to feel some fearful forbodings, while witnessing the lofty strides of anti-christ? Fear not, for notwithstanding all their wily arts, the Lord God Omnipotent reigns. “His mighty arm has gotten him the victory.” His penetrating eye darts through the mists of blackness and darkness; for darkness and light are alike to him. He sees the secret plans and movements and all the workings of the enemy; and in his own time he will cause them to wither as an herb, and their place shall become desolate. Though you must pass through fiery trials, you shall not be burned; though billows of trouble may swell like mountains, they shall not overwhelm you: for at his all powerful bidding they shall cease their commotion, and lie passive at his feet. The time of the reign of anti-christ is short; for at the time appointed, shall her plagues come, in one day – death, and mourning and famine, and she shall be utterly turned with fire: for, “strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.” The merchants who were made rich by her shall stand afar off, weeping, and crying, Alas, alas! that great city that was clothed in fine linen and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones, and pearls! for, in one hour, so great riches have come to naught. Like a great mill-stone cast into the sea with violence, shall that great city Babylon be thrown down and be found no more.
Awful passages of the downfall of all earthly splendor are being constantly exhibited around us. Earthly potentates hurled from their crumbling thrones, their empires convulsed and shaken to their centres, tottering to their final fall. The mighty hand of God is in all this –
“Here he exalts neglected worms,
To scepters and a crown!
And there, the following page he turns
And treads the monarch down.”
But amidst all this catastrophe – this wreck of human greatness and anti-christian splendor, shall be seen, on
“A little spot enclosed by grace,
Out of the world’s wide wilderness.”
the church of the Living God, singing anthems of everlasting triumph. They shall overcome through the blood of the Lamb that was slain, who has washed them and made them clean. He is their eternal Refuge, and his everlasting arm is underneath to bear them up: “He will help them, and that right early.” Although they are, in themselves weak, yet he is their Strength. They are ignorant, but he is their Wisdom. They were vile and sinful, but he is their Righteousness. They were in bondage, but he is their Redemption. They were scattered, but he is their Dwelling place in all generations. They are disconsolate, but he is the theme of their joy; and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore. They are a little feeble flock, but he is the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. They are poor, but he is their treasure, in him they have durable riches. They often wander, but he gathers them with his arm and carries them in his bosom. If the stumble or even fall, they shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth them with his hand. He feeds them when hungry, gives them drink when thirsty; he clothes them when naked, and heals them when wounded; and he cheers them when sorrowful. He is their eternal Life amidst all their death. O, what wonders has the mysterious workings of his mighty grace unfolded to their astonished vision! What matchless power to preserve, and stupendous wisdom to direct them! May they not with rapture exclaim, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord, God, Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou king of saints!”
Let the mystery of iniquity work on; our God maintains his throne and his eternal dominion. He holds the helm of universal government. He rideth on the heavens in the help of his people, and in his excellency on the sky. He looks upon the earth, and it trembles. He touches the hills and they smoke. He is merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth: keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgressions and sins; and he will by no means clear the guilty. He is mighty to save his people. Who that have tasted his mercy can forbear to praise him? How submissively should we lie at his feet in tribulation until his set time to deliver us. What resignation should we feel to his will while called to endure those light afflictions which are but for a moment; how calmly should we recline on his breast, while the merciless storms are raging upon us. In our afflictions let this be our motto – “Thy will be done.” But a little while, and all the rude blasts will be over blown. What troubles, trials, disappointments, privations, persecutions, doubts, fears, and temptations, have the saints had to endure in all ages of the world; and yet none were so heavy but that the grace given them was sufficient for their support. Truly we may say with David, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” And again, The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; he is their strength in time of trouble, and the Lord shall help them and deliver them. He shall deliver them because they trust in him. What a multitude of exceeding great and precious promises are spread over the sacred pages for the consolation of Israel. The theme sublime, and the prospect grand, no pen can describe, nor tongue proclaim the one half. Should all the saints on earth unite and swell their loudest notes until the sound should search the upper courts, and should the glorified saints reverberate the song until it should reach back again to earth, and should their united voices harmoniously swell their highest notes, until the end of time, the theme would demand a loftier and eternal song; a song that should employ undying myriads in everlasting bliss. Then let the saints dwell upon the theme – and while we continue on earth, may our lives be devoted to the praise of him who wears the crown. And when our earthly tabernacle shall be dissolved, may he raise up our children and our children’s children to praise him in our room. He certainly will preserve a few on the earth so long as the earth remains, to perpetuate his praise. And when he shall have accomplished all his work of grace upon his footstool, he will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Arch-angel, and with the trump of God. Then shall he be developed in awful majesty the justice of the fearful final, and irrevokable doom of anti-christ. Earth that has been the theatre of her diabolical developments, shall no longer bear her up; the heavy error which she has waved her black flag – shall no more waft her freighted treasures of merchandise over their briny billows from nation to nation. But, whither shall she flee? Vainly shall she call on rocks and mountains to fall on her and hide her from the face of him that sitteth on the throne! and from the wrath of the Lamb. At his appearance, the crash of warring elements, the universal throes of expiring nature will rock the earth – and cause the pillars to shake, while the whole fabric shall tremble – and flee away – and be dissolved in awful conflagration. What consternation shall seize the anti-christian clan – when the Lord shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire; taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power! But even then shall the saints raise their hopeful voices above the catastrophe, for their redemption shall be near at hand. Behold with transport of joy your king, ye saints, arrayed in robes of majesty, with his heavenly train, when summoned by the trump of God, they shall hear his soul cheering commission – “Gather my saints together unto me.” “Behold I come quickly!” The bride, arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, shall respond, Even so, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen. But, O, shall we who are now groaning being burdened, unite and mingle, with the celestial throng and swell the chorus of the eternal song – “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessings!” Transporting though! to exchange the mouldering urn for the company of Christ and his celestial retinne; to be caught up in the air, and so be ever with the Lord.
J. F. JOHNSON.
Signs of the Times.
Volume 17, No. 8.
April 15, 1849.