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CHURCH MEMBERSHIP.

Lexington, Ky., Jan.8, 1879.

MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - Sitting and reflecting this morning, I remember this day is the anniversary of what was called the great battle of New Orleans, fought on the 8th of January, 1815; and I was led, not for the first time, to ascribe the victory achieved by the American arms on that memorable day to the God who rules in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth. The victory was so astounding to all parties, when the result came to be known, I commenced a letter to my father as follows: “The Lord has blessed us with the most extraordinary victory on record.” But how little I then knew of the power, providence and grace of our God. I had not then read that Saul shall slay his thousands, but David his tens of thousands; nor the declaration of Moses, “O that they [Israel] were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them?” Deut. 32:29,30. Nor yet the victory achieved by Gideon and his little army of three hundred men, over the innumerable hosts of his enemies. When the battle was over, the victory won by the American arms, it was reported, two thousand, six hundred and fifty of the enemy killed, wounded and prisoners, while the American army had lost but six killed and eight wounded! You will not wonder that I should have written to my father as I did. The contrast between the loss of the contending armies was so great as to almost bewilder.

Our God made a covenant with Abraham and his seed, which ran thus: “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; [not go to heaven for your obedience] but if ye refuse, and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; for the Lord hath spoken it.” According to the statute, God required a mark to be placed on his covenanted people, which should distinguish them in all time from the other nations of the earth. Hence he commanded him to circumcise his son Isaac; not to constitute or make him his son. The command reached all the male descendants of Abraham, and those males bought with his money. This sign of circumcision was intended to distinguish this people from all other people; hence the Lord said unto them, on a certain occasion, “You only have I known of all the nations of the earth; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities.” A statute of Israel forbade the giving of their sons or daughters in marriage to the heathen nations by whom they were surrounded, that the seed might not be corrupted. Few of the violations of the statute to keep the seed holy was more severely punished than the foregoing. “Thou shalt not bring the uncircumcised into the congregation of the Lord.” The uncircumcised were positively forbidden to eat of the Passover. And yet we hear a prophet say, “In those days saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab; and their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people.” If there was nothing in the statutes given to Israel forbidding those unlawful marriages, why does the prophet bring them up, as showing the divine displeasure, in that the offspring could speak neither the language of father or mother, but a confounded language that neither father nor mother could understand? We learn from the divine word that, “Whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Israel in her corporate capacity was a type of spiritual Israel, or the church of the living God. The vessels of the sanctuary were committed to the priests under the law, and they were held responsible for safe keeping and proper use.

I now come to the matter I had in contemplation, when I commenced this letter. Allow me to say at the outset, that our God did not command any to see, whose eyes of the understanding he had not opened to see “wondrous things out of thy law,” or whose ears he had not circumcised, or opened to hear the holy messages he was about to deliver to them. It is but too manifest that the professed Baptist ministry of our day, like those other denominations, have turned their backs on the teaching of the divine word, listening to fables, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm; worshiping the idols of men’s hands, bible, missionary and tract societies, theological and Sabbath Schools, by which they “worship and serve the creature more than the Creator, who is over all God blessed for evermore.” The Lord by the prophet Jeremiah said, “Among my people are wicked men; they lay snares, they set traps, they catch men.” Again, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule, and my people love to have it so; and what shall be in the end thereof.” And yet again, “O my people, they that lead thee cause thee to err.”

The first temple was demolished, raised to its foundation, because of violation of the statutes and judgments given to govern Israel. With regard to the building of the second, we are told, “When the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity were about to build to the Lord God of Israel, they said, Let us build with you; we worship your God, even as ye do.” But Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel said, “Ye have nothing to do with us; we ourselves together will build to the Lord God of Israel, according to the decree of king Cyrus, king of Persia.” These very pious adversaries set about immediately to obstruct the building, throwing obstacles in the way, so that the builders, before the work was consummated, had to hold their weapons for defense in one hand, and rear the building with the other. And seeing their hypocrisy, shall we, dare we, enter into partnership or make a compromise with such men? Now let us hear the solemn warning of our God, in the prophecy of Ezekiel, 44:5-9 – “And the Lord said unto me, Son of man.” [I do not recollect that the expression, son of man, is ever applied to any but this prophet, and to the Lord Jesus, in the scriptures. “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Again, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” Ezekiel is addressed in that way in the 37th chapter of his prophecy. “Son of man, can these dry bones live? O Lord God, thou knowest.” Again, in the 43rd chapter, “Son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern.”] “Mark well, [give the most earnest attention] and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.” I know of only two ordinances pertaining to the anti-type, the gospel church: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

But the prophet was commanded to mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary, as well as “the laws thereof.” The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and the law of sin and death, together with all the laws pertaining to the government of the house, or church of God. “And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of your abominations, in that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers uncircumcised in heart and in flesh, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of your abominations.”

I remember, when I was a soldier in the war of 1812-15, and was posted on picket guard, I forfeited my life if I suffered a stranger to enter the camp who did not give the watchword. And are we less criminal, as the servants of our God, if we allow persons to enter the sanctuary of our God who are unable to pronounce Shibboleth, the pass-word of safety? And are we not guilty of causing them to break the covenant? I remember to have heard a minister ask the question, many years since, “Ought not great allowance to be made for ignorant or illiterate persons, in telling their experience to churches?” He replied, “O yes; but if they have sense enough to tell when the pigs get into the corn field, they can tell a christian experience if they have one.”

Allow a short digression. I have heard some contend that baptism is the anti-type of circumcision. Now, the latter was an external sign by which the circumcised identified themselves as the children of Abraham, and bore with them in all countries whithersoever they went, that they belonged to the family of Abraham. Now, what evidence does the sprinkling of a few drops of water on the face carry with it that they belong to the family of our God? Or what evidence do they give to others that they so belonged? Are not both the sign and substance lost in the operation? Again, as circumcision pertained alone to the male descendants of Abraham, and those males bought with his money, where do you get your authority for baptizing females? The whole system is anti-christian – utterly without divine warrant. Circumcision in the flesh, made by hands, is typical of the circumcision of the heart; hence an apostle said, “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Hence we hear it said: “He fashioneth their hearts alike.” And, “As face answereth to face in water, so the heart of man to man.” Again, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.” And yet again, “We are the circumcision which worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Hence the exhortation of the apostle Peter, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” This is indispensable, as the only means of obtaining gospel fellowship, without which a seat in the gospel church has no charms for me. Christ said, “I am the door; by me if any man enter in he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.” A double wrong is committed in receiving persons into the church who fail to give evidence that their heart has been circumcised by the Spirit of God. They must realize their utter helplessness, their just condemnation as violators of the divine law, and be brought to rely alone on the atoning blood of Christ to cleanse from sin, and his righteousness to clothe and present them faultless before the divine throne, and have been baptized by immersion, by an administrator called of God, as was Aaron, and in fellowship with the church, or they have no right to membership in the church. If brought in otherwise, they eat the bread and drink the wine unworthily, not discerning the Lord’s body, and the church is justly chargeable with the wrong.

“And ye have not kept the charge of my holy things, but have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.” They have employed men as professed ministers, whom the Lord has not called to the work, “desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm.” They lack an important qualification; namely that, “the husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits.” “Therefore thus saith the Lord, No stranger uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh shall enter into my sanctuary, [dwelling place] of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.” Remember the Lord said, “They are prophets of the deceit of their own hearts, prophesying lies in my name.” But our adversaries tell us, “All these warnings, admonitions and exhortations were well enough in that dark and cloudy day, under the legal dispensation; but we live in a day of light and liberty, the gospel day, and they are inappropriate when applied to us.” Let us see. But do we remember it is said, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done?” The Savior said, “Beware of false prophets that come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” – the doctrine they preach. And the apostle Paul says, “I know that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Again, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Where do the denominations of that order look for teachers, but to the theological schools? One of which boasts of having graduated more than four hundred. How many have other schools graduated, I know not, but presume the aggregate very far exceeds the number of Baal’s prophets. The apostle Peter tells us, “There were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false prophets among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and shall bring upon themselves swift destruction.” And the apostle John says, “And hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” The King of Zion has given a rule by which to try them. “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” I well remember when the Baptists of this state were pretty much one people; but how is it now, when Fullerism, Arminianism, Campbellism, Two-seedism, Non-resurrectionism, Missionism, with its kindred heresies, are made tests of orthodoxy? Divided and subdivided. God grant that we may take warning, dear brethren, and may we be found contending for the faith which was once delivered to the saints, remembering the chief Shepherd has said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life that fadeth not away.”

Brother Beebe, you will pardon this long letter when you remember I spend much of my time alone, and that I can neither read a sentence in print or manuscript, and am utterly unable to read what I have written. There may be mistakes, especially in quotations, but I am unable to correct them. Truth is omnipotent, and enlightened public justice certain. If you see anything in this letter that will compensate you for reading, and your compositor for setting the type, it is at your disposal.

As ever, with warm affection, your brother, I hope, in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,
Thomas P. Dudley.