“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” – Col. ii. 6.
Within the past two years the walk of the children of God in this sin-accursed world, and the many places in the scriptures where exhortations, precepts and injunctions are ad dressed to them by inspired men, have been at times impressed with great weight upon my mind; for they who are experimentally taught feel at periods that this world is not their home, but that they are pilgrims traveling through an enemy’s country to their heavenly home. There are seasons in the experience of God’s children when their hope is strong, their faith in lively exercise, and their love for the truth fervent; and at such times, when thus favored, having a glimpse of the exalted Lamb upon his Mediatorial throne, whose transcendant glory fills heaven and earth, they look very cooly upon man’s authority, wisdom and greatness, and value nothing so much as they do the truth as it is in Jesus. But alas! there are other times when the flesh seems to predominate, and Satan leads them far astray, which could not be the case if their carnal, depraved nature had been removed, and nothing left in them but spiritual love; and if nothing but love to God and for the truth as it is in Christ was remaining, how could any exhortations and injunctions be addressed to and binding upon them? Why should the inspired apostle say, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” if there is no danger of going astray? Also, “That ye put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;” but how much mistaken the apostle Paul must have been, if there was no old man left. And upon another occasion he said, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind,” &c. Certainly they who vainly imagine that their old man (carnal nature) is dead, cannot feel, while in that state of mind, much satisfaction in reading the declarations of Paul concerning the complex character of the children of God while in the flesh.
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord. When the vessels of mercy are made the recipients of the divine nature, “partakers of the divine nature,” in some instances years pass before the Lord is pleased to reveal himself to them as their Lawgiver, Judge, Priest and Redeemer; but when the appointed time has come he opens the mind, in some cases gradually, like as he dealt with Lydia of old, his word distilling like the dew; and in other instances suddenly. Yet when “the glorious Lord” becomes into such in their experience “a place of broad rivers and streams,” is he not received “the end [not at the end] of the law for righteousness?” Do not “the vessels of mercy” then feel childlike? Do the follies and vanities of this world then predominate? Does covetousness then reign supreme? Do they not feel that “they brought nothing into this world?” Do they not realize then that they can carry no earthly treasure out of the world? Do the bacchanalian feasts of the drunkard, or the fascinating charms of the card table, or the pleasures of the ball room, have much power over them then? Do they then feel like being busybodies in other men’s matters? Do they then feel like misrepresenting the sentiments of a brother or a sister? Would they then take the advantage of a fellow mortal knowingly? These or similar questions might be multiplies, but enough have been propounded to indicate something of the feelings of God’s children when they were brought into gospel light and liberty. Dear brethren and sisters, could we not once have answered in the negative all the questions propounded? Most certainly, if we were ever experimentally taught those things; and if we have not been, our profession has been merely a nominal thing. Because those carnal principles did not prevail at the blessed time spoken of, we might think the old man was dead; but bitter experience proves to all the children of God that their depraved nature remains in the flesh, which I design to more particularly dwell upon in elaborating the second or last clause of the text under consideration.
So walk ye in him. After deliverance is granted the child of God, the ordinance of baptism is shown unto such one: not merely the mode, but through faith such one sees clearly symbolized the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; for he said to John, “Suffer (it to be so) now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Our dear Redeemer’s example is what his followers are to obey, and not the carnal theories of men. The apostle Peter, referring to the ark, “wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.” Said, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,” by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” Are any who may read this walking in disobedience? If so, surely you cannot be walking in him, in not obeying his command concerning the ordinance of baptism; for said the Savior, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
When one has been baptized, and has become openly identified with the visibly organized church, sweet satisfaction will be enjoyed in thus obeying the Lord, not as the cause of life, but a result; but will indifference to church obligations afterward be walking in him? Certainly not; for said Christ to the disciples, who manifested uneasiness as to what they should eat, drink and be clothed with, “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things [just what your heavenly Father has purposed for you] shall be added unto you.” In exact accordance with the declaration of Christ is the teaching of the apostle, for said he, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Also, “Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” Can these commandments and exhortations, binding, not upon them who are dead in sins, but upon the heaven-born and heaven-taught, be treated with indifference by God’s children, and they escape the rod? Certainly not; for then they are not walking in Christ Jesus the Lord, as they received him. Members of a gospel church should be very careful, and subordinate worldly affairs to their obligations in the church as much as possible. That there are many providential hindrances during the years that persons are connected with the church, is true; but sometimes when delinquent, the excuse is, “I did not feel very well,” or “I had company from a distance,” or “the weather was unfavorable, was the reason I was not present.” Now, beloved, let us try those excuses. Supposing a few dollars of earthly treasure would “slip” from us, when we were hindered by such trifles, as already named, if we should not be present, think we should not make the effort to be “on time,” provided the weather should be unpleasant, or we did not feel very well, or some company from a distance were visiting us at the time? The awfully solemn declarations made by an inspired man are, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Not only are the children of God to assemble themselves together, but there are relative duties not to be forgotten or set aside; for it is recorded, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” These must certainly be external burdens, for in the same chapter it says, “For every man shall bear his own [internal] burden;” something he cannot transfer to the nearest friend. In keeping up a visibly organized church, there are necessary expenses to be borne, such as having a suitable place or house in which to meet for worship – not for show, nor a worldly display, but a plain, comfortable building, not after the model of some “heathen pagoda,” but a shelter from the winter’s cold and a shade from the summer’s heat; and it is binding upon every member of such church to do his or her part, “as God hath prospered him” or her in the things of this world. Not that there would be a course pursued that would seem like extortion, but “let all things be done decently and in order.” Then the burden or burdens would be equally divided, according to the means of each member; and when members who have the means persistently refuse, it is disorderly conduct, and such ones should be dealt with according to the gospel rule, in meekness, love and sincerity, showing them their error, and generally, if the right course is pursued, such ones see the improper course, and abandon it.
Sometimes the sad spectacle is public of some old, true and tried servant, who has for many years labored for and with the churches “in word and doctrine,” and has become so feeble in body that he can no more enter “the pulpit,” instead then of being highly esteemed, and “counted worthy of double honor,” seems rather to be in the way, and a great burden. Sometimes the talk is, “Didn’t he save anything during his ministry? If he did not, he certainly ought to have saved something to have in his old age,” &c. It is to be hoped that such is not often the case; but, lamentable as it may appear, that spirit is sometimes manifested, and the servant of God who has given all the strength and vigor of his early life to the cause, is, when thus physically incapacitated to preach any more, looked upon with a sort of sang froid. But is it just to pursue such a course? Concerning the ministers laying up much of this world’s treasure, if they are gospel ministers, their minds have some better and higher employment than the study to see how much they can gain of earthly riches, and they are the very men who often get sadly disappointed in persons, in whom they had implicit confidence; for when they are with brethren, and experience perils among false brethren, it is being wounded in the house of their professed friends. Going from place to place, and feeling the flock of God, in what little worldly dealings they have had, they have felt in heart, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” Because the sun of life is setting with such under a cloud of worldly adversity, should they be lost sight of by the church or churches they have faithfully served? Would it not be like a man who had had many years of faithful service from an animal, yet when the animal is too old to be any profit, turn the beast out to die? “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” The wisdom of this world often exhibits shrewdness of a wonderful capacity, in not only taking the advantage of their fellow-man, but in clinging pertinaciously to it; but will it be the effect of the Spirit in a child of God that will lead to such a course? Certainly not; but the carnal, fallen, earthly, sensual devilish nature left in the flesh. Did not grace have a wonderful effect upon Zaccheus? He said unto the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold.” The poor members of the church are to be remembered; and if we feel not for them, can we be walking in the commands of Christ? James says, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
Having dwelt at some lengthy upon the affirmative, or what is binding upon them who walk in Christ as they have received him, I shall now show forth something of the negative, or that which they who desire to walk according to the divine rule are prohibited from doing. There are many things, by themselves considered, which are not evils per se; but the tendency is to lead on to matters which are a positive evil, and ultimately bring sorrow, distress and alienation amongst the children of God. The apostle settles the matter concerning various matters, for says he, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Now it is not abstain from the evil merely, but the very appearance of evil. If we received Christ Jesus the Lord, did we not see a glorious fullness in him? Were we not brought to see that his own power would sustain his church? Did we not feel that his words to Peter, which read thus, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” were precious to us? An inspired apostle says, “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” And what is that fullness? It is “grace and truth.” The apostle Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” In the reception of such a glorious fullness, was there any room for the carnal inventions of men, Sunday schools, bible societies, foreign and home missions, organizations, which to-day are “festering all over with corruption?” No; for if there had been room for them, there could not have been a complete fullness in Christ. It is absurd to talk about a complete fullness in Christ, and take an active part in such things, for the avowed purpose of “keeping the congregation together;” for if there be no stronger time than that, it will certainly be severed, so far as it regards the Primitive Baptist Church. That worldly organizations called churches are kept “together” by such means for a time is admitted but if the children of God are not bound “together” by love, the tie is a feeble one indeed; therefore if a church expects to prosper, (not in having visible numbers merely,) and have peace, love and harmony, she must have nothing to do with “the unfruitful works of darkness.” Question: Is the writer of this article opposed to persons having information? No; but the subject now under consideration is neither worldly ignorance nor wisdom, neither worldly poverty nor riches, but the walk of the children of God.
Now there are some other things that I cannot feel justified in omitting to specify in this communication before closing it, which have no other purpose than the gratifying of the carnal mind, yet are very pernicious in their effects, causing reproach often to be brought upon our profession. Paul said, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” It is corrupt communication when law and gospel are mingled, so far as words are concerning, and that kind of communication does not “minister grace unto the hearers;” but in the absolute sense, law and gospel cannot be mingled. There is another kind of corrupt talk I wish to notice particularly, for its baneful effects have been often seen. For instance, a preacher in traveling to and from his appointments, or attending to his worldly business, calls at some public place, and is soon engaged in low, vulgar talk with the crowd; is it not corrupt communication? Is he at such a time setting a gospel example, and walking in Christ as he received him? Certainly not; and quite likely, as soon as he is separated from such company, the remarks will be made, “That man is a preacher, and is naturally a smart man; but he seems to have little or no dignity, and I don’t care to hear him preach.” How soon such course will destroy one’s usefulness; neither have the private members of the church any more right to indulge in such a course than ministers. Are not these things so? Upon one occasion the apostle Paul said to his Galatian brethren, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
The apostle Peter said, “if ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part [the adversaries of truth] he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” To be reproached for the name of Christ is an evidence of a gracious state, for said the Redeemer, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely [mark, it must be falsely] for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” The apostle, in the immediate connection, speaks of another kind of suffering because a very different cause produces it; for he says, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” Now the murderer, the thief and the evil doer are frequently despised and set at naught, not only by the church, but by the community at large, because their acts are so openly glaring against the principles of right and justice, and the law of the land is executed in punishing them; and the guilt and condemnation they suffer in some instances is very great, but it is not for the name of Christ, but their own abominations. But there is another character named that seems to be rather screened from what is termed the law of man, but should not escape the discipline of the church of Christ, and that is the busybody. How much sorrow and distress have been caused in the church by busybodies; and the awful denunciations of the scriptures are uttered against them. Are they who indulge that course, while so doing, walking in the commands of Christ? No; but they are walking “after the flesh,” and are not in a frame of mind to either enjoy the preaching of the gospel, or deal with any important matter in the church, for they are in a state of death. Paul said of certain characters, “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” Busybodies must, in the very nature of their employment, become dissemblers. If there are troubles in the church, how ready the busybody is to make it known, and sometimes give it a peculiar “coloring.” Is that the way to bring quiet, harmony and peace into the church? No; but “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out; so where there is no tale-bearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a tale-bearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Burning lips, and a wicked heart, are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.” When there is distress and trouble amongst God’s dear children, caused by their depraved natures, as far as possible it should be kept from being made public to the enemies of truth; for “tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” Beloved, are we not as a denomination watched with an “envious eye,” by not only the openly ungodly, but by all the votaries of anti-christ? Do they not rejoice when they know our troubles? Are they not desiring our destruction as a church? How careful we all should be in giving advice and asking counsel, that we do not become busybodies, and thereby stir up strife instead of inculcating peace; be sure that we understand the subject whatever it may be, and exercise due care in making out statements, so that no wrong impression is made, saying nothing about the matter or matters in the presence of enemies of the truth, or of them who are tale-bearers in the church. The psalmist said, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” Also, “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.” And Paul said, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Why should the apostle say thus, were there not principles left in the body liable to lead that body astray? The injunctions of the apostle Peter to his brethren remain in full force to-day, without being abated in the least degree. “Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and evil speakings, as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” When we are enabled thus to do, we are walking in Christ.
I will not briefly notice some of the things denominated “innocent amusements,” some of which I do not now remember to have noticed in the many able communications written upon the walk of the children of God, but many excellent articles were a sort of CAVEAT, without any specifications; and if no authority can be found for them, they should be abstained from. Do we have the record anywhere in the New Testament that the apostles indulged in the “innocent amusement” of being occasionally seated around the “card table” for hours with men of the world, or congregating in the pleasant “billiard saloon” with the rabble, to spend a few hours in amusing themselves, or turning aside to meet the elite of society in the fascinating charms of the “ball room?” But, says one reader, why have you mentioned such things? Because the time has come when it is necessary. Can there be any harm in such amusements? If the popular religionists of the day, and the non-professing world, practice such things, as it is certain they do, it only shows where their affections are, and I expect it of them; for their religion is a flesh and blood religion, and it is to be feared that the large portion of them are entire strangers to the cross. Says some one, There is nothing forbidding such amusements by God’s children, provided there is no immoral conduct; but the question is not morality or immorality, but the walk of God’s children. The statement that there is nothing forbidding those things is not an answer containing any weight whatever; for what is not authorized in the scriptures is forbidden, as much as though there were recorded a positive interdict, and the same judgment is pronounced against them who add to, as upon them who take from. – See Rev. xxii. 18, 19. In vain shall we search the New Testament for authority for such things; but do not some, in whom you have confidence that they are born again, indulge in those “amusements?” If they do, are they walking according to God’s commandments? In what is termed churches, a proviso is made, when certain ones unite, something like the following, “I will now join, with the understanding, that my “amusements” are not to be abridged; that I can still have the privilege of the card table, the billiard saloon and the ball room.” To which the answer is about as follows, “If you are moral, fill your seat, and pay your dues for church purposes, we have no objection,” &c. Can there be any cross, if the world, its follies and vices can be carried along with us?
Paul’s instructions to Timothy, whom he calls “my dearly beloved son,” were, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” Does he say, My son, when thou art sad and gloomy, take a little ‘innocent amusement,’ according to the dictates of your fleshly mind, because there is no harm in so doing? Certainly not; but he said to him, “Flee also youthful lusts; but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” Do such declarations give lenity to gratify the carnal desire of God’s children? But he was a minister. Very true. Are they not to be ensamples to the flock? That evasion will not justify any of us.
These things called “innocent amusements” have in some instances led God’s children far astray; for the card playing has led to genuine “gambling,” and the midnight hour has found the members of the church with the rabble, and sometimes such ones go home to their families intoxicated, and thereby have brought sorrow and distress not only into the family but into the church. And other “so-called” innocent amusements have led to sad consequences; and what can lead us to such a course but the gratifying of our carnal lusts? Are we not commanded to “mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affections, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which tings’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: in the which ye also walked sometime, when ye lived in them?”
Now, dearly beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, both young and old, ought we not to “pass the time of our sojourning here in fear,” knowing that we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your [our] vain conversation, received by tradition from your [our] fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot; who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was made manifest in these last times for [us] you?” May our prayer unto God by the Spirit be, “Lord, enable me to adorn my profession by walking according to thy commandments in matters pertaining to the church and kingdom here on earth.”
William J. Purington
Hopewell, N. J., Jan. 16, 1880
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 4
February 15, 1880