Strickersville, Chester Co. Pa.
June 24, 1835.
BRO. BEEBE: There are brethren in our churches who appear sound in faith and experience, who nevertheless, do not see the necessity of taking that public and decided stand that some have taken against the errors of the day; yet I cannot but think that if those brethren were to reflect for a moment on the duty of a gospel minister in this case, their objections would not only cease, but they would feel it their duty to hold up our hands. If you should think the following thoughts on the subject worthy of a place in your paper, they are at your service.
Preachers are compared to Shepherds: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers” or shepherds, Acts xx. 28. It is not only the duty of shepherds to feed the flock, but it is incumbent on them to guard them against their enemies. I am, said Christ, the good shepherd; the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not; seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf cometh and catcheth them and scattereth the sheep. Christ no doubt in the comparison of the good shepherd, had a primary allusion to himself; but it is nevertheless a comparison. The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep, &c., that is, any good shepherd will defend his flock. It is characteristic of a good shepherd so to do; and Christ in giving his life for the sheep, acted the part of a good shepherd; and it was not only incumbent on Christ to give his life for the flock, but it is also incumbent on all under shepherds to stand between the flock over which they may be placed, and the enemy. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren,” 1st John iii. 16. An under shepherd would be equally guilty by either negatively or positively admitting an enemy among his flock; that is, either by opening the door and introducing him in, or, by silently seeing him enter without giving the alarm. Suppose we had a shepherd over a flock, and he should see the wolf or dog enter in among them, and should sit still and make no effort to protect the flock; what would we do with him in such a case? The answer is at hand; we would discharge him, as unworthy of our confidence. Paul acted, in this respect, the part of a faithful shepherd when he said, “Beware of dogs; beware of the concision.” Concision is here used exegetically of dogs, and who did he mean? The judaizing teachers no doubt; men who had assumed the functions of the ministry, but whose object was to devour, and not to feed and nourish the flock. Of such we have hundreds at the present day; but thanks be to God, there are yet a few Pauls in this respect, who fear not to warn the flock against these devourers, even should they occasionally receive a butt from some of the flock for so doing. But it is a fact, that even a surly look from one of the flock, effects the heart of the shepherd more than the barking of a thousand dogs.
Again they are called watchmen; “I have set watchmen on thy walls O Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace day nor night; ye that make mention of the Lord keep not silence.” Isa. lxii.6. It is not only the duty of watchmen to cry the hour, or sing out All’s well, when it is so; but to sound the alarm at the approach of danger. What should be done with a watchman, who, on seeing the enemy approach the city, instead of giving the alarm, should still continue to cry All’s well! or skulk into his watch-box, and suffer the enemy to fall upon the unsuspecting citizens and destroy them? All will say that he would deserve the fate of a traitor; and what treatment would a watchman on the wall of Zion deserve for acting a similar part? For an answer to this, we would refer you to Eze. xxxiii. 6. But let us drop figures and come to the example. We find a peculiar faithfulness in Christ and the Apostles in reproving error: “Woe unto you scribes, pharisees, hypocrites; ye devour widow’s houses, and for pretence make long prayers: standing at the corners of the streets, &c. A similar faithfulness is discovered in the Apostle’s pointing out the errors of that day, and in warning the church against them. Not only did they point at the errors of their time, but they described the characters that promoted them – as may be seen in the Epistle of Jude; 2 Peter ii. In answer to this however, it is often said, but there is a difference to be made between Christ and his Apostles, and ordinary ministers; as if ordinary ministers were not called upon to imitate them in that particular. That there is a difference, we admit; and that Christ and the Apostles performed acts that are inimitable by ordinary ministers, is also admitted. Such, for instance, as miracles, &c., which are not only inimitable by us, but would be presumption in us to attempt an imitation; but when any one will prove from the word of God, that their faithfulness in exposing error, or errorists, was among their inimitable acts, and that we are not authorized to attempt an imitation; I will take the same arguments and prove that it is wrong in us to attempt an imitation of them in any particular whatever. But we are fully convinced that it is as much the duty of an ordinary minister, to imitate them in this, as in any other case whatever; and while we have such good examples before us, we feel safe in sounding the alarm, and in warning the churches against those whom we verily believe are now labouring to prostrate the Kingdom of Christ, and to build an anti-christ system on its ruins.
But if the above will not answer, let us come to the directions given by Paul to Timothy; who, by the way, was not an Apostle, but an ordinary Pastor. It 1st Tim. i. 5, Paul informs him why he wished him to abide at Ephesus: that he might charge some that they teach no other doctrine; and in the 4th Chap. and 6th verse he says to him: If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of Faith and good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. The inference is plain, that if he neglected to do so he would not be a good minister of Jesus Christ. But what things had Paul in view? The foregoing part of the chapter answers this question: Now the spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith. This cannot mean the grace of faith, but the doctrine of Faith; and it would seem, that those persons must in some way or other hold the faith, but depart from it – and that by giving heed to seducing spirits. Now the real servants of God know what it is to be tormented with these seducing spirits; they are men of like passions with others, and are often tempted by them; but the above mentioned persons give heed to them – listen to their enticements and follow their directions. It is not our design to give a comment on the text, but to shew that it was the duty of Timothy to apprize the church of errors, and to warn them against their influence; and if it was the duty of Timothy so to do, it is equally the duty of every minister o f the gospel to do the same.
In the above quoted text, the Apostle evidently has a view to future times, but does not designate any particular juncture of time, but the latter times; and there is not a doubt but that the church has been more or less troubled with such characters, ever since Paul’s day. But there are times when the church is more troubled with such things than at others, and if it be the duty of ministers to put the brethren in remembrance of these things at all; then in proportion as they multiply and their influence extends, the duty of preachers in that case increases. For instance, we will suppose a man to have a large farm, and some part of it is become exposed to danger, from intruding animals or noxious weeds, it would become his natural duty to direct his care to this part of his property; or, if a city should be besieged, it would be the duty of officers and citizens to direct their attention to that part of the city where the enemy were most likely to attempt an entrance.
But the fact is, the City of God – the Church – is assaulted at every point at this time. Turn your eyes in what direction you will, and you see the enemy approaching with sword in hand, aiming a deadly blow at her very vitals. Never since Paul wrote his epistle to Timothy, has the passage above quoted been more fully verified than at the present day; and can it be possible that it was a mark of a good minister of Jesus Christ, in Timothy’s day, to warn the flock against such things, and that it should be a mark of a good minister now to be silent and suffer them to pass unnoticed, when they exist in a tenfold proportion to what they did in his day? No, brethren; it cannot be so; it is still the duty of gospel ministers to put their brethren in remembrance of these things – a duty which they must and will discharge, be the consequences what they may. I will close these few remarks by advising the brethren to examine the scriptures carefully and prayerfully on the subject, and see whether it is not the duty of the minister of the gospel to guard as well as feed the flock.
I add no more, but remain as ever, yours, in a precious Redeemer,
Signs of the TimesVolume 3, No. 16.
August 5, 1835