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FORSAKING ALL FOR CHRIST.

Covington, GA.,Nov.8, 1869.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - Quite recently I received a letter from Occoquan, VA., in which my views are requested through the SIGNS on Matt. 19:29. As the name of the writer is not given in full, I am not able to answer it, only through the SIGNS, though it would be my choice to answer it privately if consistent. Often when my views are requested on any portion of scripture, I have such a heart sinking pass over me through a consideration of the greatness and preciousness of Bible truth, and a sense of my nothingness and inability, that I involuntarily exclaim, O Lord, have mercy on me!

The text reads as follows: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”

The importance of forsaking all for Christ is discussed in the context. The young man was told by the dear Redeemer, if he would be perfect, to go and sell all that he had, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me. He went away sorrowful at this saying of Jesus, for he had great possessions. With all the perfection a person can attain by his own industry and perseverance in religious things, it avails nothing in the way of salvation. The last thing a sinner will give up, properly speaking, is his own possessions, in which he trusts, and which is his riches. When Jesus spoke of the impossibility of a rich man’s entering into the kingdom of heaven, the disciples were amazed at his doctrine, and said, “Who then can be saved?” It appears shocking, and revolting to a self-conceited, bigoted mind, that salvation should be exclusively of God without the works of the creature, and the disciples were pestered on that point. What is impossible with men is possible with God. And why? Because grace reigns, and has dominion over its subjects. Though it is with feelings of sorrow a man yields up his own possessions, in which he trusted, and which was his riches, yet they must be yielded to the law of perfect obedience to Christ; and loath as he may be to give them up, yet it is possible with God to humble him to such a state of perfect obedience, though it is contrary to his own voluntary choice. The saints in every age learn as the disciples learned by experience; yes, by days, weeks and months of sorrow and penitence, the utter falsity in trusting in anything else, but God alone.

Peter, who always was very forward to speak, could say, “Behold we have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” It would rather appear as though Peter thought that he and the other disciples were entitles to something as a reward to them on account of forsaking all for Christ’s sake. Whether he thought so or not, the spirit of ignorance and delusion which sometimes predominates in the saints, will lead them to suppose that they are entitled to some remuneration from Jesus on the principle of services rendered by them to him on the debt and credit system. But after they have done all in the way of obedience to the command of their Lord, they are unprofitable, and merit nothing from the hand of God.

It is very probable that the disciples were contemplating Jesus in the character of a temporal King in his kingdom, which they considered temporal, and they desired to know what positions they would have assigned them in that kingdom, as they had forsaken all on his account. In Jesus’ reply he contemplates another kingdom, which is not of this world, and that when he was seated on the throne of his glory, his disciples, who followed him in the regeneration, or passage from under the law dispensation in his resurrection from the dead, should be seated on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. They were to be established as spiritual judges, which, indeed, at the appointed time was the case. But the disciples at the time Jesus declared these things unto them did not understand him. Though they knew him to be the Son of God by revelation of the Father, they were in their infancy, or minority, as to a knowledge of the deep things of God in the setting up and establishment of Christ’s kingdom among all nations, and the gathering in of the “other sheep” from among the Gentiles. They did not fully comprehend Jesus in his Mediatorial exaltation as the King that should reign in righteousness, and they, as the princes that should rule in judgment. They understood these things after his ascension to glory, when the Holy Ghost was given, and his kingdom was established, and they had taken their seats as judges.

Now follows the text which contemplates the character, or class of people who have forsaken all for Christ’s sake. In primitive times to forsake all and everything in this world for the name of Jesus, and to be recognized as a subject of his kingdom, was attended with a great sacrifice in a temporal point of view. Believers in Jesus sold their lands and houses, and laid the money received for them at the feet of the apostles, and had all things common. They were subjected to persecution from unbelieving Jews who were in authority, and were liable to the confiscation of their property, and to be turned out of house and home. Their own natural relatives as presented in the text, were often their bitterest enemies, and they were sometimes compelled to forsake them in a literal sense for the enjoyment of the company of those who believed in Jesus. They were a community of believers who continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers. The enjoyment they experienced in a spiritual sense was more than commensurate for their losses, privations, sufferings and persecutions in this world. They saw the glory of the dear Redeemer, and felt his precious love, and rejoiced in the glory which followed the ascension of the immaculate Savior, and which was revealed so gloriously in his church and kingdom. The sweet assurance of faith, the glorious hope of immortality, and the precious application of the promises, were a hundred fold more to them than all this world, in the aggregate, if they could have possessed it. All they had to endure in this world was of but little account in comparison with the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord. They esteemed the reproach of Christ, and the persecutions which arose therefrom, and a quiet mind in a belief of the precious gospel of Christ, greater riches than all the honor, wealth and pleasures of the world. And the additional consideration that there was an inheritance for them beyond this world in the realms of unsullied glory, an inheritance of incomparable brightness, shining with more than diamond lustre, exceeding in value and preciousness the most beautiful gems the eyes ever beheld, or can behold on this mundane sphere, and arising in superlative excellency as far beyond human comprehension as the glories of the eternal world exceed the highest point of human glory the mind or imagination can reach. To inherit everlasting life does not yet appear, only as it has appeared to the saints who have gone to glory, or appears in the daily experience of those on earth, but the veil of this earthly tabernacle shuts out the uncreated glory of that everlasting life, which will be revealed in its fullness when mortality is swallowed up of life. A great cloud of witnesses both before and since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to glory, bear indubitable testimony that to forsake all for the name of Christ, and to follow him as strangers and pilgrims here, is the highest point of glory reached in Christ’s kingdom on earth, and in unspeakable excellency, as far exceeds all terrestrial things as the heavens of immortal glory are higher than the earth.

It is a lamentable truth in modern times that the name of Christ is egregiously prostituted from its original signification and application in such a manner that it is very common and popular to belong to some christian church, so called, and vile men and women of dissolute principles are found leaders in churches, and wearing the garb of the most devout worshippers. Even our own nation, once so highly favored of God, is called a christian nation, while at this very time she is intoxicated with the filthiness of abominations, and reveling in the blood of innocent men, women and children. A lying spirit is abroad, {as in the case of Ahab} deceiving with a profession of religion, a supposed ability and righteousness of the creature, and thousands are under a dreadful delusion of a fancied security in the professed church of Christ. They take with them into their imaginary church, houses, lands, brethren, sisters, fathers, mothers, wives and children, with no self-denial, nor bearing of the cross. On the other hand there are some people, while waging war against counterfeit Christianity, are waging war against genuine Christianity also, making no distinction between the counterfeit and the genuine, or in other words, between the spurious religion of men, and that which is revealed from heaven, and is of God.

The questions have often arisen in the minds of candid inquirers after truth in these times, Where is the church of God? What is her doctrine, faith and practice? Dr. Mosheim, an ecclesiastical historian, acknowledges her antiquity, but denies her identity as the church of Christ. Her antiquity is of ancient date, and she has shown her character, her principles and her practice from time almost immemorial. In primitive days she appeared in the fullness of immortality as she emerged from under the old covenant dispensation, clothed in the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation, of her glorious Redeemer. Christ’s exalted name is recognized in close relationship to every subject of God’s grace. Merely a profession of his name never did, nor never will prepare a person for the gospel kingdom. The preparation is in the calling of grace, and the external manifestation is in the profession of his name. Therefore he that loveth Jesus more than his houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, is worthy of Christ, and will forsake or leave them for Christ’s sake.

The relation existing between Christ and his chosen people is as separate and distinct, and as far apart in character from the natural relations of this life, and from the world, as heaven and hell. There is no affinity, properly speaking, yet these different relationships exist among the subjects of Christ’s kingdom while in this world. I do not understand the text to conflict with other portions of the scriptures where the different relations of this life are recognized, and instructions given by the Holy Ghost relative to their faithful observance. The relations, institutions and ordinances which God has appointed in his providence to govern his people in common with all men, and which they should observe and keep inviolate, cannot properly conflict with the relation his people sustain to their exalted Redeemer, nor conflict with any of his laws, rules and precepts concerning them. The relations of this life and the laws and institutions of men, are held subordinate to the authority of Zion’s King, in the government of his church in time. Therefore the saints are not to forsake their houses, lands, brethren, sisters, fathers, mothers, wives and children in a literal, or natural sense, as the words of the text may seem to express, but these should be held subordinate in their love, and service to Christ in all things.

The love of Christ is of an everlasting, ennobling character, and raises its subjects above all worldly considerations, and places them at the feet of Jesus, with all they have or possess at the disposal of their gracious Lord. Self is denied, the cross is borne. If a saint has houses and lands, and loveth Jesus more than them, he maketh use of them to the glory of God, and not to serve mammon, or gratify a covetous disposition. His liberality is known in behalf of the poor and needy, and in ministering to the necessities of him who labors night and day, and travels through heat and cold to preach the gospel, to the comfort and edification of the Lord’s needy children. He takes sweet satisfaction even to an hundred fold, in the enjoyment of the society of the saints, and the preaching of the word. Some of the saints, in less opulent circumstances, are benefited, and an equality is produced by the charity of him who aboundeth in worldly goods. His home is always a home for the saints, and his heart is ever open in their fellowship and esteem. He has in heaven an enduring substance, an everlasting habitation. Whether he possesses much or little of houses and lands, or he may be a poor man in a literal sense, he enjoys a thousand times more of heavenly riches than all the world can enjoy in its vanities. In forsaking the world for the service of Jesus, he makes a holy exchange. If he loveth Jesus more than his brethren and sisters in the flesh, he finds in exchange brethren and sisters in Christ, nearer and dearer to him than earthly relatives are. Therefore he forsakes his earthly relatives out of love to his heavenly Father’s children. If he loveth Jesus more than his natural parents, he finds a heavenly Father and Mother who have a more tender solicitude for him in a way that never fails. If he loveth Jesus more than his wife and children, he experiences the strength of a tie that is never severed, and binds him stronger than all earthly ties can do. In truth there is more heavenly felicity, more spiritual comfort, more substantial joy, more ecstatic bliss, in the enjoyment of the presence of the blessed Lord in the obedience of faith, than in all the world a thousand times told.

The church of God in these days, is, in fact, as they ever have been, a small, despised and feeble people, in the opinion and judgment of men. They are little children in deed and in truth, in fact babes and sucklings, yet the high praises of their ascended Lord are perfected in them, and among them, for a new song is put in their mouth, even praise to God. A lady in one of the Eastern States, often came to hear me preach, and remarked at a certain time to a friend of mine as follows: “I believe the doctrine Joseph preaches, but the Old School Baptists are too unpopular and despised for me to come down so low as to join them.” I remarked, “As she was so high up in her own estimation, it was advisable for her to stay away until she was brought sufficient low to look up and see the people of God as the excellent of the earth, however despised by the rich and fashionable of this world.” I repeat what I then thought and said.

I have no personal knowledge of my correspondent, but he expresses a desire “to love and practice the truth.” My sympathies are awakened in his behalf. I hope he knows where the church of God is, and that he is experimentally acquainted with her doctrine, laws and ordinances. It is useless for him, or any one else who desires to love and practice the truth, to look for the church of God anywhere else only among the Predestinarian, or Old School Baptists. I speak of the church in her visible organization, a community of believers, a people saved by the Lord. There is really more comfort and enjoyment in the fellowship and communion of the saints, a hundred times told, yea more than can be realized in all the world calls good and great. The presence of Jesus with his saints makes communion sweet and precious, and it is more to be desired than any other consideration; it is indeed heaven below. The world with all its allurements and vanities recedes from our view when Jesus is present, and each one feels to say, It is good to be here. However much such seasons are desired and appreciated, and it is indeed a hundred-fold at the time, it is but a drop in the ocean of God’s everlasting love, and falls far below the fullness of that inheritance of everlasting life which will burst forth, or be revealed with ineffable brightness and transcendent glory in the triumphal ascension of the church to the world of unclouded immortality.

Yours in gospel fellowship,
Joseph L. Purington.