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PSALM 37:7.

Covington, GA., Feb.7, 1869.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - A few weeks since I received a letter from a sister at Dover, N.H., requesting my views through the “Signs,” on Psa. 37:7, which reads as follows: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him; fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devises to pass.”

To come to the subject without any preliminary considerations, I will state that I understand the speaker in the text is no other than the Spirit of the Lord God, the Holy Ghost, in David, who is a lively type of our Lord Jesus Christ. This heavenly personage appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and was with the church in the wilderness, and was in the prophets testifying beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. He is in his church, and seated upon the throne of his glory, having power and dominion. Kingdoms and governments are subordinate to him, and the hearts of all men are in his hand, and he can turn them as the rivers of water.

The character addressed is the church of God in a collective sense, as embracing all the children of God, and alike applicable to every one of them, and the personal pronoun thyself is used as denoting the emphasized form of the person addressed. Therefore every one who is called of God by his grace, and is a member of the spiritual family, is addressed.

Rest in the Lord. This language presupposes that the person addressed is born of God, and is really, or actually in the Lord, as by way of comparison, a person born by natural generation, is really, or actually in the natural world. The spiritual birth, as well as the natural birth, brings into manifest existence distinct persons or characters, having a previous existence in their respective progenitors. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. To be in the Lord in an experimental sense, does not impair or change any of the relations of this life which God has ordained, or appointed. The relation to God as his children is paramount to all other considerations, and brings them distinctly under law to Christ, to bear the cross, to deny self, and to obey the statutes and laws of Zion’s King. This is their imperative bounden duty. Hence the positive direct command in the text.

Though David was king over national Israel, and lived under the old covenant dispensation, yet in his experience as a child of God the spirit of the new covenant, with its promises, comforts and enjoyments, he experienced and felt. He rested in the Lord. The working system of the old covenant afforded no rest to David, neither does it give any rest to the followers of Jesus. Though the law, in its manifest character under the old covenant, revealed the glory, majesty and justice of God in its fiery and rigorous demands in the condemnation and punishment of the transgressor without mercy, in the Lord Jesus Christ rest, peace and unspeakable joy is triumphantly revealed. The prophets and holy men of God rested in hope of salvation through a crucified and risen Redeemer that was to come. Since the Redeemer ascended to glory the saints rest in hope of manifest salvation by the faith of him who came in the flesh, performed his work, rested from his labors, and ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.

The Israelites of old, while looking for the promised Messiah, were seeking for justification by the righteousness of the law, and substituted in the place of the righteousness of the law, their own righteousness, and would not submit to the righteousness of God. Therefore when Christ was preached as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, they, not believing in Christ, but trusting in their own righteousness for justification and salvation, stumbled at that stumbling stone. He was to them a rock of offence. The trouble was in their own minds, and therefore the presentation of Christ, and his righteousness was a stumbling block to them. They entered not into the gospel rest, neither did they see the end of that which was abolished, to wit, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, and the observance of holy days, new moons, and sabbath days, which were only the shadow of good things to come. Christ Jesus was the substance, the end of those shadows, the believer’s sabbath, or rest, the only hope and rest of the church in time, and her rest in glory. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

The system of works in point of justification, is innate, or natural to all men more or less. It is in their very existence as sinners against God, and the rest spoken of in the text is unknown to them. It is the germ, or main spring of action among will-worshippers, and religious bigots, and has governed the devotees of spurious religion in their opposition to God’s truth, and persecution of the saints, from the days of Cain until now. The principle remains the same, whatever its forms and phases may be. It is working with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish at the present time. The wisdom, wealth and power of this wicked world are engaged to sustain it under the assumed name of the christian religion.

But a person taught of God, and who has followed the leadings of his own worldly wisdom, and the vanity of his own righteousness, and has experienced their utter insufficiency and inability to save him, rejoices in that rest which Jesus gives to laboring, heavy laden sinners. He gives rest, and his rest is glorious. This sabbath, or rest, is enjoyed in the sweet assurance of faith, and is kept holy in spirit and in principle with the comfort which our God bestows. The observance of days, months, times and years, is expressly forbidden as contrary to the laws and statutes of our God and King.

There is, however, a disposition among the saints in their flesh to sin against God, and to call in question what God has said, or commanded. When I say flesh I do not mean the material body in an abstract sense, but the carnal mind which dwells in that body, and which Paul calls flesh in his own experience in Rom. 7:18. Again he says, “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” A constant antagonism exists between the flesh and the spirit. The works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit are described by Paul in Gal. 6:19-23. The command is to walk in the Spirit, and to rest in the Lord. The flesh opposes it, and reasons in opposition to God and his truth. The multiform shapes and forms the flesh will assume in its reasonings and workings, is beyond expression. The depths of depravity are bottomless, and the enmity of the carnal mind cannot be described. It is invulnerable to every power, but the power of God. It wars against the soul, that is against the saint, and cannot be dislodged from its dominion over the saint when he is in captivity to the law of sin in his members, only as the power, grace and love of God appears in his deliverance from the fiends of hell. When the Prince of Peace speaks with power and glory, Peace, be still, rest in me, unspeakable joy and peace bursts forth, and the glorious rest is again experienced and felt. He soars aloft in a comforting view of Christ as his life and salvation, and of God’s goodness and mercy to him.

The text, with the context, contemplates what the saint should do, and what he should not do. This is a perfect rule of faith and practice. God works in the believer both to will and to do of his good pleasure, and he is commanded to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. To work out his own salvation is obedience to the commandments and precepts of God his Savior. Therefore to trust in the Lord and do good, to delight also in the Lord, to commit his way unto the Lord, trust also in him, to rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, to cease from anger and forsake wrath, is obedience to the law of Christ. Obedience does not entitle him to the enjoyment of spiritual blessings here, or eternal glorification hereafter, as though he merited them by his obedience. After he has done all he is commanded to do, he is unprofitable. On the other hand, it is obedience to Christ to fret not because of evil doers, or be envious against the workers of iniquity; to fret not because of him that prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass; and fret not in any wise to do evil. These considerations are certainly very important, instructive, and applicable in these days as well as in the days of David. When the saint violates the law of Christ in leaving undone what he ought to do, and doing what he ought not to do, he wrongs his own soul, or in other words, he wrongs himself, sins against God, and finds the way of the transgressor is hard.

The text, without the context, is a fund of instruction, encouragement and comfort. I am not able to do it justice. To rest upon the oath and promise of God, and wait for the accomplishment of his purpose concerning his church and people, is not the exercise of the ability of the creature, but the effect of grace in the creature when all earthly hopes and expectations fail. To wait patiently may be like looking anxiously for the morning through a long sorrowful night attended with suffering. The morning comes according to the fixed decree of the great Creator. The morning of deliverance and of joy, after a long night of anxious expectation, will come, for God has so ordained. God is bringing his church through a severe ordeal even now. Perhaps it is unknown to her what time of night it is, or when the morning will come. The saints are driven to the necessity of resting and waiting patiently. The morning will come no sooner by labor, or by impatience. Our God will come and will not tarry. If more patience is desired in waiting, the tribulations must be increased so as to work patience. Rom. 5:3-5. There is no real cause for fear, for our God is faithful to fulfill his promise. There are outward enemies, and inward foes. Paul says to his brethren amidst the tribulations and persecutions which they were called to endure, “And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God.” &c. There is freedom of body and mind when resting in a literal sense, and when waiting for some period to arrive when certain cherished expectations and anticipations will be realized and enjoyed. A child of God, while resting and waiting patiently for some precious boon which he has asked for, and is promised him, has implicit confidence in that Holy Being who is the bestower of the gift, that it will be as he has promised. Therefore does he with patience wait for it. The arch-fiend of darkness will sometimes try to cheat him out of the promised reward by the suggestion that on account of his vileness and ill disposition he is not entitled to the reward, and that it has never been promised to him only in his imagination, and that his unworthiness and unfitness was a great bar to his acceptance, and that he was deceived entirely from first to last. This cruel suggestion and unpleasant thought produces labor, and distress of mind which are not easily shaken off. Still it is from an enemy, and should so be, considered by the weaklings of the flock. The unbelief of the saint, with all his doubts and fears will not change the promise of God, or invalidate the truth of God. The Lord Jesus will come in his experience though he may tarry long. He will also come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory as he has already come in his church and kingdom. He will punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and be glorified in his saints, and be admired by all them that believe. This is an encouragement still to patiently wait the coming of our Lord, for it is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God.

The antediluvian and postdiluvian patriarchs and prophets, in truth a great cloud of witnesses, to whom the coming of Christ in the flesh, and the glory that should follow, was promised, rested in hope, and though they died without seeing Jesus in the flesh, they died in faith. Centuries passed, but at the appointed time the promise was fulfilled. Simeon and Anna saw the holy child Jesus and rejoiced in spirit. The disciples were commanded to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high, and the promise of the Father was fulfilled. It is not given unto the saints to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in his own power, and they are only known as they are revealed, or manifested, at the proper time and place. Thousands of them, like the ancient saints, have died in faith since the gospel church emerged from under the old covenant dispensation, passing through great tribulations, persecutions and afflictions. Their record is on high, and they rest in peace free from the turmoil and strife of this sin-disorded and sin-cursed world.

We which are alive and remain upon the earth have our portion of sorrows, distress and bitter afflictions to endure. But we must not forget the promise of our Lord, or turn away from him who speaketh from heaven. We have come to Mount Zion, unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, &c. Heb. 12:22-24. Such being our high privilege, we should both rest and wait patiently for the coming of our Lord, when mortality will be swallowed up of life, and we shall awake with the likeness of Christ. Meanwhile we must not fret because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. It is a sin to do so. We must not let sin reign in or have dominion over us. We are under grace, and subject to the law of love. I am addressing the saints in general throughout our country. We see the wicked man prosper in his way, and bring wicked devices to pass, and it is painful to us. We see this in the high places as well as in the low places of the earth. Truth and righteousness is set at naught, and subverted among men. In all classes of society, and among all grades of men, from the highest to the lowest degree, a terrible state of demoralization exists. The political, religious, and social world is enveloped in thick darkness which is sensibly felt by those who have a sense of feeling, and from whence no light is emitted. But there are many whose consciences are seared with a hot iron, {a metaphor} and past feeling. Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off, for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter; yea, truth faileth, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey. It is feared that some of God’s children are indirectly, if not directly, joined in with the workers of iniquity in their nefarious and diabolical purposes.

It appears that the psalmist, perhaps Asaph, was hard put to it at a certain time when he saw the prosperity of the wicked, and how his own feet were almost gone, his steps had well nigh slipped. While discussing the subject in the seventy-third psalm, and presenting the apparent prosperous course of the wicked, and the suffering and distressed state of the righteous people, and how he was plagued all the day long, and chastened every morning, a feeling of diffidence seized hold of him, and a want of confidence in God seemed to paralyze him. The reflection altogether was too painful for him. But when he went into the sanctuary of God then he understood the end of the wicked. He was constrained to say, “Surely thou {God} didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought to desolation as in a moment; they are utterly consumed with terrors.” He acknowledges his folly, and confesses his ignorance. He was comforted to know that though his flesh and heart failed, that God was the strength of his heart and his portion forever. This is the experience of many of the dear saints in these distressing times, and it is a satisfaction to know that whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

To fret is to be vexed, chafed, or irritated; to be angry, and to utter peevish expressions. It is a trait of the carnal mind, and is brought into action by crossing circumstances. It should be denied. Every little circumstance sometimes will chafe, or fret one’s self to a great degree; and to be in ill humor is a very great annoyance, and will cause a person to appear very unbecoming before others. It is a sin against God, and is opposed to God, and is a besetting sin. If indulged in, it will increase upon a person, and control him, whereas it should be controlled. A person than can rule his own spirit is worthy of more honor than an army that takes a city.

In many portions of the scriptures we find the emphatic declarations of the confusion, desolations and utter destruction of the wicked in their wickedness. They are raised up as God’s hand, or sword, to execute his purpose and will in the chastisement of his people. They are the rod of God’s anger, like Sennacherib, king of Assyria, to humble his people as Hezekiah was humbled before the Lord. They do not mean, neither is it in their heart to do the will of God, but their purpose is to gratify their pride and to accomplish their ambitious and selfish ends. But when God’s will and purpose is accomplished, they are thrown aside as broken vessels no longer of any use. So when a vile man brings his wicked devices to pass, and glories in them like the despots, tyrants and base men of the earth, it is preparatory to his utter dismay and confusion. In the Mediatorial exaltation of the dear Redeemer in his holy hill of Zion, the heathen are given to him for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. They are not his inheritance, or possession in the same sense that his church and people are his inheritance or purchased possession, for he will break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. In these times while the flood-gates of the bottomless pit are open, disgorging themselves upon the earth, the wicked are being delivered over to God to work out their own destruction in a most fearful manner. Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations and perhaps they will be broken to pieces through the crushing weight of their own sins, and the very instruments that are used to build them up, will be turned against them in their overthrow. So the heathen may rage, and the people imagine vain things, and the great and mighty men of the earth may set themselves against his anointed people, and may seem to prosper in their course, our God will laugh at them, and will hold them in derision. Their destruction is imminent, for the Lord has spoken it.

Therefore the people of God should not fret, nor be envious at the workers in the prosperity, for God is bringing his people through the fire {his fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem} and is purifying them as gold and silver, and they are made to offer an offering in righteousness. They are rent loose from the many idols and pernicious things which the world so much admires, and are made to turn their backs upon the foolish vanities, which are calculated to allure, seduce, and draw many astray. It is far better to be counted worthy to suffer with the people that are in the right, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. It is indeed greater than all the honor, wealth and pleasures of this fleeting and transitory life. All the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, as says an inspired apostle. It should be our theme of rejoicing, and source of great comfort in all our tribulations, afflictions and persecutions, that while the heavens, the earth, the sea and the dry land are being shaken, in nearly every sense of the word, as of things that are made, and are being removed, that the saints have received a kingdom which cannot be moved, but will stand forever. Therefore, while a state of chaos and infuriated madness exists in the political world, and the religious world is surcharged with the elements of death and ruin at a terrible rate, and the social world egregiously out of joint also, let the saints consider themselves subjects of that immoveable and invisible kingdom, and bear in mind the solemn and heavenly mandate of our God and King so emphatically expressed in the language of the text, and obey its rules and directions.

I have protracted this article to a great length, as my communications generally are short, and though it is more than a month since I commenced it, on account of many embarrassments, I submit it to the perusal of the sister who requested my views, and of all others who may feel interested therein. Yours sincerely and affectionately,

Joseph L. Purington.