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MATTHEW 6:23.

Covington, GA., Dec.23, 1869.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - A lady of my acquaintance in one of the Middle States requests my views on Matt. 6:23, latter clause of the verse: “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.”

In the plenitude of God’s mercy he has been pleased to call sinners by his grace, and reveal his Son in them. Of this class were the disciples to whom was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, while to the great multitude Jesus spake in parables. He, with his disciples, had retired from the multitude into a secluded place on a mountain, and there he preached his excellent sermon to them so noted in Holy Writ. In his teaching he says, “The light of the body is the eye; if thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” This is the key to the text, which unlocks the whole subject, as I understand it. As the blessed Jesus is addressing his disciples exclusively, it applies only to the children of God.

In a mental point of view that which resembles the organ of sight in its relative importance and beauty; as, for instance, the Sun is the eye of day, applies to man in relation to his mind. In the eye of his mind he sees, or understands a subject, and judges of its importance according to its merit as it appears to him. The light which occupies his mind affords a clear vision on any subject he understands. I am speaking in relation to the natural mind of man which is susceptible of understanding natural things only so far as his physical and mental powers may be capable of receiving instruction according to the light he may have. As to spiritual things, which are revealed from heaven, he is wholly in darkness; is compared to darkness itself, {Eph. 5:8,} and as every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually, of course his eye is also evil before God.

In relation to the subjects of grace, Christ is, emphatically, their life, and that life is the light that shineth in darkness, and the darkness of their natural minds does not comprehend it. The antagonism between light and darkness is now manifest. Christ is the eye of day, which illuminates the whole body of the saints, and each one separately, in their experimental walk and conversation in time. When their eye is single, or pure, the whole body is full of light. The Spirit of Christ is eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, and a heart to understand in those who believe and love the truth. It is only by the light of revelation that any sinner can see God, first in his fiery law and inflexible justice, and secondly in the person of Jesus Christ in his justification from under the law, and in the forgiveness of his sins. His eye is single if he can behold this truth. He may not feel it as he desires in his own experience, but it is a principle of truth he fully endorses. He sees through the gospel glass darkly, which reflects the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ. Not that there is any darkness in, or about the glass, but the darkness is in himself. The eyes of his understanding are enlightened in the knowledge of God and his salvation by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation given unto him.

After a period of time he finds himself beset with enemies on every side. Not that light is changed into darkness, Christ into Belial, a single eye into an evil eye, but he enters into darkness because he falls into the shadow of the body of this death, which Paul speaks of in Rom. 7:24, wherein is no light at all. He cannot see, or behold spiritual things as formerly. The Sun of righteousness is concealed from his view by the dark body which intervenes. Instead of spiritual companions to comfort and console him, the beasts of the forest, or of night, creep forth, and he is alarmed by their barking, howling and roaring. A host of demons, such as anger, malice, discontent, doubts, fears, unresigned feelings, and others not named, join hand in hand to worry, annoy and torment him. He falls back on the light of human reason for help, and with the light of reason alone he searches and examines every portion of the flesh, or carnal mind, to find the marks and evidences of a work of grace. He finds sure enough how great is the darkness that is in him, and with all the superficial light of his own inventions, produced by the use of means, in kindling a fire of his own combustible materials, and compassing himself about with sparks, walking in the light of his own fire, and in the sparks he had kindled, he has to lie down in sorrow, without any substantial comfort to his distressed mind. The ignis-fat-u-us, or jack-o-lantern illumination which arises from the marshy, pestilential bogs of human depravity brings no relief to burdened, sin-sick and afflicted souls. They realize experimentally that all the light of the natural powers of mind they possess in relation to revealed truth, is darkness, with all the science, intellect, and highest point of attainment the mind can reach in a religious direction, or in any other way, is great darkness indeed. If therefore with all the light that the natural religious mind can disclose, or that the saints can produce by the exercise of their own mental powers, or the volition of their own will is darkness, surely it can be said, how great is that darkness. The eye of the mind is evil, and the whole body is full of darkness. None but the saints realize the character of this darkness. It is sensibly felt. They fail, give up all for lost, and the great horror of darkness and labyrinth of woe into which they are sunken, is calculated to produce an involuntary exclamation in each one of them, Lord save me, or Lord I am oppressed, undertake for me.

I will present the subject, if possible, in a still more forcible manner, in showing the antagonism of light and darkness. Heaven is the fountain of light, of glory, and of the fullness of happiness, and enjoyment inexpressible. It is the throne of God, a high and holy sanctuary, the resting place of the church in time and in eternity. The saints are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. All power is given unto a living Mediator in heaven and in earth. Hell is the full embodiment of darkness, depravity, sorrow and death. It is under the dominion of the prince of the power of the air, or of darkness. The war between these two belligerents is carried on, or fought in the mind, or perhaps more properly, the soul of every true lover and follower of Jesus. The soul, I understand to be, the battle field of contending armies, the scene of many sanguinary feats. Hence the many expressions used by the saints of the Old and New Testaments to the many conflicts of joy and sorrow, seasons of rejoicing and praise, and times of distress and affliction in their souls. Their personal identity as individuals, or saints, is recognized when speaking of themselves by speaking of their souls. For instance, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46,47. Mary is speaking of herself. So in numerous other instances. The powers of heaven, and of hell, or in other words, of light and of darkness, are engaged in hostile array for the mastery in the experience of God’s children. There is no question, or dispute, as to the final result of the conflict, for the church is redeemed, and grace reigns. Christ died and is risen a victorious conqueror. Jesus has gone forth conquering and to conquer. The prince of the power of the air, or arch-fiend of darkness is a conquered foe.

It is impossible to serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon. In serving God the whole body is full of light; in serving mammon it is full of darkness. Serving mammon is serving the flesh, or in other words, sowing to the flesh, and the production of such sowing is corruption. There is a darkness, a death, an unprofitableness in it of a very unhappy character. When a saint reasons of God’s work in him on carnal principles, and tries to understand spiritual revelation as he would understand any worldly business he was engaged in, he finds all such reasoning vain, and all such light to be total darkness. “If ye love me,” says Jesus, “keep my commandments.” If you will be my disciple you must deny yourself, and take up the cross and follow me. You must serve me, and not the flesh, is the sentiment conveyed. You must not confer with flesh and blood, and search through the dark corners, miry bogs and sloughs of a bottomless depravity to find the sweet assurance of an acceptance with God.

It is a weakness or infirmity of the flesh which is common to all the saints, more or less to be searching for good where there is none, or in other words, to try to bring good out of evil, which cannot be done. The flesh is never satisfied with God’s work, nor never can be. This point will have to be yielded by every child of God.

My correspondent writes like one of the poor of the flock, though not recognized in a visible church relation with the saints. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, who, like her, have sufficient light in them from God to see how dull, how dead, how unthankful, how cold-hearted and unlovely they are. They can sit and hear gospel preaching, but don’t feel it. It goes right past them. It seems to them others are benefited, but each one feels to say, “I am left out.” They are taught to have no confidence in the flesh, or in any earthly arm, or in themselves. My correspondent fears that all the light she has is only imagination, or the work of Satan to deceive her and to make her believe that she is something when she is nothing. She really is afraid that it is in the power of Satan to so transform himself as to present to view a suffering Savior. She speaks of the little hope she once had, and if she could hear and understand as formerly she would be glad. This is the language of many of the poor of the flock who know the word of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

It is praiseworthy, and according to the word of the Lord for her, and others like her, to go to the church of God, and own, or confess the whole truth, and follow Jesus in his ordinances, doctrine, laws and commandments. Or, if in the church already, hold fast that which thou hast that no man take thy crown. Be faithful unto death, says the Holy One, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Brother Beebe, I begin to feel that I am worrying you with my letters, and, I think, I will desist from writing any more, at least for the present.

Yours in christian fellowship,
Joseph L. Purington.