Alexandria, VA., Jan.9, 1873.
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - Though I am suffering from a severe cold, which renders me quite uncomfortable, I venture to pen a few lines for the SIGNS. I have no particular scripture upon which to give my views, though my views on different scriptures are requested by several persons, for publication in the SIGNS, yet I have to yield my feelings to gratify them, to circumstances over which I have no control. In addition to a lack of time to write, is the consideration of being left alone, poor in spirit, barren in mind, and utterly destitute of spiritual exercises to guide me to write in a profitable manner. I am not complaining, God forbid; for I am only stating the truth, and stating what is exactly right, so far as my experience is concerned. I am willing to serve my brethren and sisters, though I may suffer untold excruciating mental agony in so doing. When there is a flowing forth of spiritual blessings from the fountain of incorruptible fulness in Jesus Christ, in preaching, or in writing and speaking on heavenly subjects, and when those who hear, read, and feel the power of the same everlasting truth, there is a joy, peace and comfort therein, which arises on the ascending scale as far above the transitory joys of time as the heavens are above the earth. In truth they arise to the throne of God, and enter the celestial glory of the inhabitants of heaven. But when a dark intervening cloud hides the face of his throne, and the heavens are shut up, the sun, moon and stars are obscured, or hidden from view, and the impenetrable gloom of the shadow of death encloses the saints and pilgrims of Zion, their joy is turned to mourning, their peace to sorrow, and their comfort to a state of disquietude. Or in other words, they are made to believe what they already know, that in Jesus Christ there is joy, peace and comfort, but in the world, and in their flesh, there is tribulation, sorrow and woe.
When I commenced writing, I expected to quote a passage of scripture in Heb. 7:3,4. “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood striving against sin.” This scripture afforded me great comfort in the early part of my experience, more than thirty years since, while I was struggling under the oppressive yoke of a hireling priesthood among the New School, or Missionary Baptists, and it has been a source of comfort to me since. When I joined the Baptists I knew of no division among them in the section of Maine where I resided. A division took place in that vicinity about ten months before I united with the Old School Baptists. In those days I found myself subjected to much “contradiction of sinners,” and it seemed to break down my spirit, and I became wearied and faint in my mind. I felt my strength was gone, or was fast declining, and I could not stand the trial single-handed and alone against the vast conglomeration of spurious doctrines and unscriptural practices of the New School Baptists and other religious societies. The above scripture was timely, and very supporting to my mind. I was made to stand alone in the trial, and though subjected to scorn and reproach in the days of my youth, and thought my case was very hard and trying, I was brought to see, in truth was made to acknowledge, that terrible as it might appear to me, I had not yet resisted unto blood striving against sin. It was an anchor of the soul to me, a sure ROCK on which I stood, and that God was my strength and shield. This truth has sustained me thus far, and I trust it will.
And here, brother Beebe, I will say, that while I consider you my senior in years, experience and understanding of the truth, and have for more than half a century been enabled to withstand a severe storm of opposition from the enemies of God and truth, and have had to bear a great contradiction of sinners against your course as a minister, and as editor of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and now in your declining years and advanced age are made to experience severe losses, heavy crosses, and sore bereavements, these considerations have awakened within me, sympathetically and with deep feeling of heart, a remembrance of you in my supplication before God, and in my prayers to the Most High. Words cannot express my condolatory feelings in the behalf of yourself, sister Beebe, and your surviving children and grand-children, in your late affliction. Much as you have been called to pass through and endure in your pilgrimage, you and the saints of this age have not yet resisted unto blood striving against sin. The sufficiency of the grace of God under all circumstances remains unchangeable and as immutable as the eternal existence and everlasting perfections of Jehovah.
Those believing Hebrews, who are called “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,” were much persecuted by their unbelieving brethren, the carnal Israelites. Their profession of the name of Christ had exposed them to the taunts, gibes, contradictions and malevolent threats of their enemies. The apostle who wrote to them was divinely inspired, and his words were as apples of gold in pictures of silver. He came to the rescue in comforting, encouraging words. He speaks of faith, its nature, character and astonishing effect. He mentions the names of very many of the saints in ancient days who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, &c. Heb. 11:33-40. And in the way of comforting, strengthening and encouraging those believing Hebrews, he says, in the commencement of the twelfth chapter, “Wherefore,” or for reasons just stated, “seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The words, seeing we are, convey the idea, in view of the fact that we are compassed about, &c. Hence those saints were not alone in their trials, buffetings and persecutions. In those days there were no human laws, or laws of men, to protect them. Compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses. The same great cloud of witnesses continue to compass about the followers of Jesus in our day. In running the race, patience is needed. Every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, must be laid aside. We cannot serve mammon and follow Christ. There are many weights to impede the running of the saints in maintaining their profession inviolate. It is feared some are held back from honoring their profession of the name of Christ, by the weight of politics. It is serving mammon. When any one is more devoted to the defense of his private personal character among men, than to his profession as a follower of Christ in his church, he dishonors his Lord, reproaches his profession, and the weight of his private personal character destroys his usefulness. The accursed sin of covetousness, which is idolatry, is a dreadful weight; in truth, the source of most of the evils with which the church has been hampered, and held back from obedience to the laws of Christ. The groundwork of all false religion is covetousness, and while it assumes the appearance of charity, universal charity and benevolence, it is the quintessence of selfishness, bigotry and fanaticism. What fearful strides it is making in our beloved country, in this idolatrous age. How few can withstand its influence, and some strong men have fallen. Under the figure of a strange or base woman, Solomon presents the false church, who stands by the wayside and corners of the streets, and with her pretty fascinating smiles and gaudy dress she tries to allure, draw aside, and captivate the travelers of Zion who go right on their way. The snares which are set to catch and turn aside from the path of truth and righteousness the followers of Jesus, are so many that the heart sickens at the recital of them. We are living in a time of awful wickedness. The rapid increase of crime and immortality, the overthrow of the former political structure of our national constitution, in the entire abandonment of sound principles, and the terrible increase of false religion in its multiform shapes and phases, and the general tendency of demoralization everywhere, is well calculated to strengthen the conclusion in the minds of many that the brittle thread of human laws, in the protection of the saints in their worship and privileges, will soon break asunder, and resistance “unto blood striving against sin,” may soon follow. Though I have been told by some that there is no danger, and that I am an alarmist without just cause, yet if the developments of the last few years, with what is now transpiring, are not sufficient cause for anticipated danger in the direction above stated, I confess I am mistaken in the signs of the times. This subject is unpleasant to contemplate, only as we are able to behold by the light of revelation, through the faith of God’s elect, that our King is the Lord God of hosts, the absolute Judge of the universe, and who is able to dash whole worlds to atoms as he please. Joseph being sold into Egypt, the betrayal, crucifixion and death of our precious Redeemer, and other circumstances of a similar character, through a human view were very gloomy and disheartening, yet in the predestinating purpose of Jehovah they were all for the glory of God and the good of his people. The same truth remains in full force at the present day; so those who love our Lord and walk in his footsteps have no just cause to fear.
I must return to the subject I was discussing. The apostle says, “let us lay aside every weight,” &c. May the precious things of the kingdom of our God so far control the Old School Baptists in the United States, as to cause every follower of Jesus to consider himself happy with the soul cheering consideration that in heaven we have an enduring substance, a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Then we can readily lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us. Every saint has a besetting sin. It is always near in a fretful, peevish, sullen disposition, or a refractory temper, an unbelieving resentful spirit, a jealous eye, or some other hateful carnal propensity. Indulging this sin, whether in doubts and fears, or in any other way, is not laying it aside, not bearing the cross, or denying ourselves in running the race; in truth it is not running at all; we are serving the flesh and our own lusts. I am writing in a general application to the saints. In running the race with patience, we are following Christ and putting off the old man with his deeds. All unrighteousness is sin, and it is a besetting sin. Where the greatest danger lies, there the saints should be the most prayerful and watchful. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. The subject looms up with glory, and irradiates the church with its fulness. While looking in ourselves or in the world for goodness, perfection, or any bright shining of light and evidence of immortality, we look in vain; but when our faith causes us to see Jesus as our hope and salvation, the author and finisher of all that appertains to our salvation, the mountains recede, the hills disappear, rough places are smooth, the crooked is made straight, and light shines where darkness dwelt. There was a joy set before Jesus in his meritorious work under the law as there is a race set before the saints in their pilgrimage here. He was straitened until it was accomplished. He must suffer. He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Here is the victory of the church in her union with Christ, experimentally and vitally. Very well we might esteem it a high honor to be counted worthy to suffer afflictions, tribulations; yea, endure contradiction of sinners against ourselves in our obedience to the will of our heavenly Father, to resist steadfast in the faith our adversary the devil, who as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished by our brethren that are in the world. This is not resisting evil with evil as some suppose, but striving against sin on the principle of striving for the faith of the gospel. There is a suffering martyrdom for the truth’s sake in our daily experience, but to have our blood flow like water in the defense of gospel truth, is an honor of intrinsic worth and excellency. Great is the reward of the saints in heaven.
I have written under much embarrassment owing to physical indisposition. A portion of this letter was written last night between the hours of one and four o’clock, as I could neither sleep, nor rest. I expect to leave tomorrow morning for my appointment next Saturday and Sunday at Ebenezer. O for rest from sorrow, toil and pain in the holy mountain of our God. When shall I awake and find myself there?
Yours very affectionately,
Joseph L. Purington.