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AMOS 3:12.

Alexandria, VA., Jan.18, 1874.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - I have heard recently that a dear sister in Orange County, N.Y., desires my views through the SIGNS on Amos 3:12, which reads as follows: “Thus saith the Lord, As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or the piece of an ear, so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch.” I suppose the sister concludes I have some views on this scripture, or she would not have asked my views. I will write as I may have light on the subject.

These are the words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel. He saw the things of which he speaks. They were made known to him by the Holy Ghost. In the midst of his prophesying he was told by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, not to prophesy any more at Bethel; for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court, for he {Amaziah} had said before to the king of Israel that the land is not able to bear all his words. As a faithful servant of the Lord he declared by what authority he prophesied. He answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.” Amos was not raised up, nor educated in those institutions which existed in Israel to make prophets, which prophets always proved to be false prophets, but was called of God without any literary qualifications in those days. In this particular, as well as in other respects, he was like the chosen ministers of Christ in gospel times. The ministers of Christ now, as in Israel in the days of old respecting the prophets of the Lord, are called of God without any consideration of universities of learning, colleges of human erudition, or theological seminaries, established by men. In the calling and experience of Amos we have the calling and experience of all the Lord’s chosen ministers.

The prophecy of Amos was about forty years, as near as I have been able to obtain chronological dates, before the ten tribes were carried into captivity by the Assyrian kings. Perhaps the prediction in our text had its literal fulfillment when the ten tribes were carried into captivity, and never returned, being carried away by the adversary, represented by the lion in the verse preceding the text, and the two legs the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, being preserved or saved from destruction by the Shepherd of Israel, the Lord of Hosts. The piece of an ear presents to my mind a small portion or remnant of the nation, preserved for the fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy, which was more than sixteen hundred years before, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh {Christ} come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Gen.49:10. The largest portion of that national people were destroyed forever, and though they were two nations, the house of Israel and Judah, yet they were the natural posterity of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is evident that Amos traveled from Judah into the northern kingdom of Israel, or Ephraim, as spoken of by Hosea, and there prophesied for a short time. Literally and historically the children of Israel, meaning the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, did not dwell in Samaria or Damascus, but considering the calamities which came upon the ten tribes, and the close proximity of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the danger to which they were exposed, their deliverance or preservation was like taking the legs, or the piece of an ear out of the mouth of the lion. Hence the imminent danger to which they were subjected was as though they dwelt in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch, and were saved in God’s providence from their enemies. In the midst of the terrible judgments which came upon the ten tribes, a remnant of Israel was preserved, notwithstanding the Babylonish captivity, until Christ came in the flesh. Those who dwelt in the corner of a bed, or in a couch, are the remnant, or preserved of Israel, taken out of danger, or saved from the calamities which came upon the ten tribes. So much for the literal fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy. I will now speak of it in another sense, which will be, perhaps, more interesting and edifying to the saints.

When the children of Israel {the ten tribes of Judah and Benjamin now all in one} were under the Roman government, our Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, appeared in the flesh, suffered and died, and arose again for the redemption of his chosen people in the gospel covenant, and triumphantly ascended into the heavens. Some years after the ascension of our Savior, and the preaching of the gospel on the day of Pentecost, and elsewhere, and the apostles and ministers of Christ had nearly or quite finished their labors, the certain destruction of that national people took place. But the children of Israel in the gospel covenant were delivered from that destruction, though as illustrated in the text by two legs, or the piece of an ear, there was a very small remnant according to the election of grace saved from among that national people. To this there is a perfect agreement of the word of the Lord by the prophets, and confirmed by the testimony of Christ and his apostles. They are called the tenth in Isaiah, sixth chapter and thirteenth verse, and the third part in Zechariah, thirteenth chapter and ninth verse. They are called “an afflicted and poor people,” also “the flock of slaughter,” and in numerous other places they are spoken of. There was a very small remnant of the antediluvian world, both of man and beast, saved in the ark, and only Lot and his family saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Only a remnant of seven thousand men with Elijah in that day. But a very small remnant in Isaiah’s time. A remnant only of that national people, according to the election of grace, in Paul’s time. Not all that were Israel after the flesh were the children of God in the heavenly covenant. The children of promise, whether Jews or Gentiles, are counted for the seed. In Isaac shall thy seed be called. Paul says to the churches of Galatia, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.”

To enter into a more positive application of the text, or in other words, to show its application in gospel times, I will say there have been periods since the nation of Israel lost its nationality, and the gospel church has been set up and established among the Gentiles, that the sweeping declaration of the text would apply. Since the name of Christianity has had its existence in the world, the same spirit of idolatry, of fanaticism, and all kinds of religious abominations which existed in the days of ancient Israel has developed itself, and is being developed under that name. It is awful to contemplate the development of the man of sin in our day; no tongue or pen can describe it. And the fearful increase of infidelity and all manner of wickedness is shocking to think of. But it is not a new thing under the sun, for the scriptures are being fulfilled. Whole communities of nominal christians, worldly religionists, are devoured, or swallowed up in the jaws and bowels of the adversary, the devil, who, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. The saints are commanded to be sober and vigilant, and to resist him {the devil} steadfast in the faith, &c. This is an important consideration. The verse preceding the text presents the character of that adversary in the person of the Assyrian kings. God says, “An adversary there shall be even round about the land, and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.” God raised up this adversary, as he did Pharaoh of old, to show forth his power, and that his name might be declared throughout all the earth. While the devouring work of this adversary is going on, the Shepherd of Israel is saving his chosen flock, the flock of slaughter, out of the mouth of the lion. Here is an exhibition of his grace and salvation. Two legs, or the piece of an ear. How little they are. Mere fragments, or broken pieces only. They are all that are left. Yet they are saved. So it is now. The Old School Baptists are a fragment, broken pieces only, yet they are saved by the Lord.

Two legs separated from the body, or a piece taken from the ear, will cause blood to flow. As the blood of Christ was shed freely for his people, their blood must be shed in vital union with him, in their sufferings with him, in their experience of heavenly truth as it is in Jesus. They must know the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. They are cut off from the world in their crucifixion with Christ, and are made to suffer with him, that they may be glorified together with him. They are circumcised in heart by the circumcision of God. This is not circumcision outward in the flesh, but in the heart, whose praise is not of men, but of God. Here is a separation, a cutting off, a division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, a martyrdom, a dying daily, being killed all the day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. To be crucified to the world, and the world to us, is a terrible ordeal to pass through, but a glorious one. In this way the saints are taken out of the mouth of the lion in their salvation from sin, death and hell.

Truly two legs, or the piece of an ear, are but little, if any account among men. They would be thrown away as useless mangled meat, or bones, to be devoured by buzzards and unclean beasts, or to bleach and waste away upon the earth. So the church and people of God have ever been thrown away, and reputed as the refuse of mankind. They were so considered in ancient days, and they are considered in the same light now. And why? Because of the doctrine of God our Savior, and their love and devotion to the word and commandments of their exalted Redeemer.

When the body of a sheep or a lamb is devoured by a wild beast, and nothing is left but two legs, or the piece of an ear, that which is left is literally dead, and of course is not susceptible of action or motion. Those who are saved by the grace of God from that destruction which devours the adversaries of God and truth, are dead to sin, but alive to God. They are helpless in themselves, and have no more life in themselves, in reference to their salvation, and final glorification, than two legs, or the piece of an ear, separated from the body, have life in themselves. Christ is the life and salvation of his people.

To speak of the Baptists within the last fifty years, and we have a striking illustration of our subject. They have been devoured by the overflowing scourge of the false and carnal doctrines and institutions of men, except a few of God’s elect left in the land, who, as fragments, or pieces of the body, have been taken out of the mouth of the lion. While the great body of nominal Baptists are swallowed up in the great abyss of worldly religionists, and even some who claim our name to take away their reproach, are ready to bite and devour in the way of misrepresentation and abuse. God’s power and grace are manifest in bringing one of a city and two of a family to Zion. When we contemplate how few there are in the cities of our country, and comparatively but few in the rural districts, who, manifestly, are of the circumcision, and who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, we are forced to the conclusion that our text is having its fulfillment even now. He that has eyes to see, and ears to hear, let him see and hear where the church of God is in our day.

The Lord, by the prophet, makes an application of the figure, or metaphor, used in our text. “So shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria, in the corner of a bed.” The expression seems rather obscure. As a part of the literal rendering of the name Samaria is, his prison, perhaps may be able to reach the prophet’s meaning, or rather the meaning of the Holy Ghost. God’s elect are in the prison of this world, the prison of this earthly tabernacle. Paul, speaking of our glorious Lord, says, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” Here is the gist of the subject. God’s people are prisoners of hope. Paul says, “We are saved by hope.” Their condition in this world, altogether considered, is awful. Though continually exposed to danger on every side, yet they are safe in the hands of the great Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. This is a great comfort to them who feel the weakness of their condition, for when they are weak in themselves, they are strong in the power of God’s might, God is their strength and salvation, in whom they trust.

In the corner of a bed. According to outward appearance, the followers of Jesus have a distressing hard time in this world. They are crowded, pressed, and jammed tight in a small place, as in the corner of a bed. The world, the flesh and the devil are against them. It seems, sometimes, they have no room to breathe, and are really in a smothering condition. In the corner of a bed in the prison of condemnation, they are subject to the smothering, panting, gasping, expiring process of death in all its horrors of condemnation, as guilty wretches before God. It is death with all its awful throes, yet there is a resurrection unto life in Christ Jesus. They are taken out of this dwelling in prison, this dreadful state of condemnation and death where they have ceased breathing in the old element of sin, the putrid atmosphere of pestilential fevers, smothering epidemics, and nauseating carcasses. They are brought into a new state of being, and now breathe the atmosphere of heaven. They enter into a state of joy and happiness in Christ Jesus. Old things have passed away, and behold, all things have become new. They see things in a different light from what they ever did before. The body is dead because of sin; the spirit is life because of righteousness. They cannot enjoy the pleasures of sin any more. Their enjoyment is in heavenly things, and the world and its vanities no longer can feed and comfort them.

In the after experience of the saints they are often brought into captivity to the law of sin in their members, with enemies without and within, and are often terribly alarmed. Though shut up and in prison in the earthly house of this tabernacle, they experience a captivity which is truly distressing. When kicked about of Satan at his will and pleasure, with all kinds of shocking sensations of mind beyond description, in mental agony they cry, “O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.” Again, “Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou hearest my voice.” The sweet psalmist of Israel points out the experience of the saints in a clear and distinct manner. So numerous are the different sensations of mind experienced by those who have eternal life in them, that I cannot at this time say anything more than to mention that the same power and grace which saved them from the condemnation of the law brings them out of the sweltering, consuming depths of darkness and damnation to which they are subjected in their captivity to the law of sin in their members. One of the most potent and common devices of Satan by which he holds many of the saints, and lovers of the truth, in prison, closely pressed, as it were, in the corner of a bed, is to make them believe they are not subjects of grace, but are deceived in their hope, their profession, and experience of grace. In this particular, as well as in many other particulars, they are hard pushed, terribly cramped, and most awfully beset. The more they learn of the awful selfishness of their fleshly minds in refusing to receive the testimony which God has given them in their experience that they have passed from death unto life because they love the brethren, the more they are made to see their ingratitude and unthankfulness to God in saving them by his grace, and are led to wonder at his long-suffering towards them, unworthy sinners. Blessed be the holy name of our God for his love and mercy to his people.

And in Damascus in a couch. Damascus means, a sack full of blood. The word in is supplied. Damascus is a couch, a sack full of blood. This, perhaps, is its meaning. I will not attempt to force a meaning. One thing is certain, where there is a persecution of the church by unrighteous legislation, arbitrary edicts, or any oppressive laws, there is always suffering, distress and death, more or less. Under such circumstances there is no resting place for the saints on earth. Their rest, if any, is a bloody couch, a sack full of blood. They are bound there, and there they suffer until the Shepherd of the flock of slaughter takes them home. Though they may not be subjected to be put to death by violent hands in our country and the British empire, yet every means is resorted to that can be, on earth, and in hell, to persecute and waste the church of God. In a book entitled the “Dialogues of devils,” published in England about the year 1780, we find a vivid statement of the depths of Satan, which I conclude the writer had learned by experience. While I am certain it is more desirable to learn by the teachings of God’s Spirit the deep things of God, yet by way of contrast we are compelled to learn something of the depths of Satan. The mystery of eternal redemption, and the mystery of iniquity, exist in terrible opposition to each other. Those malignant fires of hell; namely, pride, jealousy, envy, and evil eye, prejudice, hatred, self-conceit, bigotry, self-righteousness, infidelity, and thousands of other evil spirits from the bottomless pit, are arrayed in direct opposition to the church of God, to waste it, and to destroy it. Awful sufferings, beyond all description, attend the saints, sometimes, in the terrible conflict experienced by them. In Adam, that is in the flesh, they find no rest, nor peace; it is death there; but in Christ Jesus they find rest and peace; no death there. In Christ, mortality is swallowed up of life, and death is swallowed up in victory. The children of Israel, God’s new covenant people, who dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch, shall be taken therefrom into the full glory of their ascended Lord, and be forever with the Lord.

There is a fullness in the text from the consideration that Jehovah says what he will do. There can be no mistake on that point. His word is settled in heaven. The beloved prophet rejoiced in the will and purpose of God. Though he prophesied more than seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, he saw the day of Christ, and rejoiced in it. As confirmatory of the positive declaration contained in the text, and also in direct accordance with the text, the prophet says in the ninth chapter, eighth and ninth verses, “Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth, saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord. For lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” Here we have an exact counterpart, though in a different mode of expression, with the subject of our text. The sinful kingdom, which was the ten tribes, or Ephraim, was destroyed from off the face of the earth. The house of Jacob was not utterly destroyed until after Christ came in the flesh, and not then, only in reference to the national house of Jacob, or Judah. The spiritual house of Jacob is the house of Israel which God is now sifting among all nations, and is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. It is a comforting consideration that in these evil times God is sifting his people as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. While in the sifting of corn or wheat in a natural sense the shriveled grains will often pass through the sieve, yet in the election of grace, in his purpose of love and mercy in the sifting of his people, none of those who in their feelings are weak, feeble and shriveled grains, and who love God’s truth, and his people, can be lost, or fall upon the earth.

In the conclusion of this lengthy article, and in connection with my last quotation from the prophet Amos, the Lord God says, “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this.” In Acts, fifteenth chapter, when the apostles and elders came together to consider the matter of circumcision, at Jerusalem, this last scripture was quoted by James, and applied to the people of God in the gospel covenant and kingdom among the Gentiles. Herein is presented the family of God, his redeemed chosen people. Peter says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

I close in haste, and though very poor in spirit, I hope I am strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus.

Yours very unworthily,
Joseph L. Purington.

P.S. Since I closed this article I have read all of the prophecy of Amos again. I am not able to reach any other conclusion in my views on the text than what I have expressed. Such at least are my views, and if they are not a correct exposition of the scripture I know not its meaning. I do not believe, as some suppose, that the ancient prophecies are to be understood altogether in a literal or natural sense, but that there is a spiritual application of them to Christ and his kingdom upon earth. And there are strong figures and metaphors used by the inspired writers in the presentation of the family of God, which family are born of God, and have their standing in the Sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not in the flesh, or in Adam, that they are the children of God, but in the Spirit, or in Christ. In their experience they receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father. The adoption, says Paul, is the “redemption of our body,” or the resurrection of the dead. In the accomplishment of God’s work of salvation, he makes use of the adversary, or Satan, to bring down the pride and haughtiness of his own chosen people, and to spoil all of their palaces, or highest anticipations, as Israel was spoiled, or as Peter was sifted as wheat by Satan, and they are placed in a situation to realize the sovereignty of God’s grace, and his electing love in their salvation. Helpless and broken down in every sense of the word, they are saved of the Lord and by the power of his might. This was not only the truth in ancient days, but it is the truth now. There were a few then, and there are a few now. With a feeling of hesitation I submit this article for publication, subject to your judgment in the case.