Harrisburg, January 23, 1855.
Brother Beebe: – Having a small remittance to make, I thought I would scribble this little sheet and you can dispose of it as you think prudence dictates. I have been greatly edified by the many experimental communications of the brethren and sisters scattered abroad in our wide spread country. I have long since become tired of that intolerant spirit of bickering and criticism which has gendered so much strife, discord, animosity, and division among brethren who agree in all the great principles of salvation by grace alone, but some word, or inferable idea is critically assailed, harsh words proceed, and more or less ambition rises, party lines are drawn and each party goes to work to gain members. These things, my brethren, ought not to be. Even in the church of Christ, (the Old School Baptist,) far too much of this leaven has been at work, and we should pause and answer the interrogatory, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” Let us all learn, from the past afflictions of Zion, to labor more tenderly, more fervently with more patience, brotherly kindness and charity, to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace.
While we draw the sharp two-edged sword in the holy cause of God and Truth, and maintain an uncompromising war with the world and its delusive inventions, with Satan and his wily snares and temptations, and the multi-form institutions of anti-Christ, her will-worship and feigned humility, and former stand as valiant ministers, and members, and churches, contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, let us not forget that we still have another subtle and dangerous foe, always on the alert, the flesh, with all its sordid passions and lusts, which war against the spirit. This enemy is more dangerous because his name is Self. This Self is very tenacious of character and worldly fame; it can not bear abasement, and is very apt to expand very much under flattery and applause, and is therefore always ready for an advantage. If some awkward soldier on the wall, or in our ranks makes a random stroke, Self suggests that was aimed at “me.” My reputation is assailed, and I shall be branded with cowardice, if I do not retaliate! And at it they go; and thus the war begins in our ranks, and the devil, the world, and anti-Christ, gain a truce, and we proportionately strengthen the armies of the enemy, by greatly weakening our own, by this internal war among ourselves. In this way the flesh, or Self, takes the advantage when we are not aware, and we are blinded and brought into captivity to the law of sin tat is in our members. Indeed, all our enemies can do us but little harm without Self, or, the flesh, as an ally.
My brethren, does not a retrospection calm, cool and impartial retrospect confirm in some degree the melancholy reality of the above? An apostle says, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye, through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live.” “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Have we not been too often, and too much in the flesh during the divisions which have spoiled our peace and divided our strength? It is not enough for us to say, “the other party was in the flesh, and being led by it, I, or we, received great insults, and unprovoked abuse, even to the assailing of our moral character.” The question arises, Did you or we know that all these insults and assaults were false? If so, we should have rejoiced, and been exceeding glad; but were not we also in the flesh, when we were so reviled? And did we not, in open violation of the express charge and example given us by our Lord, revile again? The fleshly errors, vices, and aggressions of others can never justify us in following them in the same vices; but, if the assailant be a brother, or brethren of our fellowship, in the spirit of meekness and long forbearance, we should, according to the plain law of our Savior and King and His holy apostles, labor to reclaim such from the error of their way; knowing that he that shall convert a brother from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, (that death which a Christian who lives after the flesh, is sure to die.) This is the plain course laid down for us to be governed by in all such cases. But alas! How frequently has all this been forgotten or neglected under one pretext or another, and the dictates of the flesh have been followed and the effects or fruits of it have been woefully realized in our borders, which fruits are hatred, wrath, strife, emulation, sedition, and every evil work. What an admonition is before us! From a review of the past, let us all learn a lesson, for the future. Let us learn to mortify and crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts; then when we live in the spirit and walk in the spirit, and are governed in our proceedings and led by the spirit, we shall not fulfill the evil desires of the flesh; but, with emphasis, it may be said of us, “Ye are not in the flesh, but, in the spirit.” Then we shall not mind the things of the flesh, but things of the spirit.
I have lived for many years, brother Beebe, without a doubt on my mind as to the great system of salvation revealed in the Gospel being the same that is believed, preached, and defended, in and by the Old Order of Baptists; and that church I have no doubt, is the only visible church of Christ on earth. Of these things I say, I have not the shadow of a doubt; but in this militant and imperfect state of her members, while we know but in part, it is not strange if in many minor matters shades of differences should appear even among us, while we are all one body, having one spirit which animates every member of that one body. Each of these members being, at the proper time, called in one hope of their calling; having one Lord and Lawgiver to rule, govern and defend them; one faith to look to, rest upon and trust in Him alone; one baptism, by which each of them openly “puts Him on,” by acknowledgment of Him as the King and Savior, and as the All-in all. All these being the children which God gave to Christ and which He chose and blessed in Him with all spiritual blessings, before the foundation of the world; so they all have one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in them all. All these members have their different gifts by the same Spirit, to perform their different offices, as members of one body. All these members being compassed about with many infirmities, in this imperfect state of their minority, while they think and speak but as children, we should all keep a steady eye upon the family discipline of our heavenly Father. When we duly consider the oneness of the Head and the members of His body, that we are all members of Christ’s body, and not only so, but members in particular, and brethren one of another, how carefully we should walk, how cautiously we should act, and with what loving kindness we should strive to reclaim each other when any of us err from the Truth. I have believed for some time, that perhaps the Baptists are farther from the Gospel standard in this respect than in almost any other; and that we are suffering the reproaches and derision which, now so much afflict us, on account of this dereliction from wholesome Gospel discipline.
If some of your correspondents, who have the gift of exhortation, would write on this subject, and stir up the pure minds of the brotherhood, and all the churches and elders would, not only press these things on each other, and on all, and above all, if all would constantly teach them by example, knowing what poor imperfect things we are by nature, perhaps while we look at our own imperfections and shew, and feel, a forbearing and forgiving spirit to others who have erred in many things, but who still hold on to the great leading Truths of the Gospel, perhaps God may grant them repentance unto the acknowledgment of the Truth. I would write to the point if I could; but I feel my incompetence and you must judge of the propriety of such a poor scribble’s going before the brethren.
As ever, I remain your servant in the Gospel of Christ.
Jan. 23, 1855.
Signs of the Times
Volume 23, No. 5
March 1, 1855