The sovereign declaration of God concerning his people is, “ I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; " Heb.,viii,10. By this are the people of God distinguished, that each has for himself a perfect transcript of the law of the Lord, not written on tables of stone, not delivered into the hands of priests and teachers to be administered, but written on the fleshly tables of his heart. Still, there would be great difficulty, notwithstanding this fact, in distinguishing that "peculiar people," because of the many opposing claims presented, and the conflicting laws and doctrines professed to have been received of God, but we are not left to human judgment in this matter to decide in favor of superior numbers, or to be led away by apparent honesty and sincerity of professions. “We have a more sure word of prophecy." That law, which is written in the hearts of God's people, with all their experience of it, is also written in the sacred volume; and, between the word of truth and the teaching of the Spirit in the heart, there is perfect agreement. Then, only that experience, or that profession which agrees with the Scriptures is reliable "The Spirit," (in the word,),, itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." "To the law and to the testimony - if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
By the teaching of the Spirit alone can the word of God given us in the sacred Scriptures be unfolded to our understanding. It can not be explained to any one by human teachers, neither can a knowledge of it be acquired by dint of study. When we experience it then we understand it. The truth written upon the heart is brought out to view, and its light reflected upon the written word shows us the spiritual meaning and application. Then,
"A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun."
How often have we read some passage with no especial interest, seeing only literal beauty, perhaps regarding its teaching as contradictory to reason, and passing it over with a quiet indifference as something to which we may yield a nominal expression of belief, but which is by no means to direct our course of action. We can remember when this was the case with us in reading many portions of the Scriptures, which have since become full of comfort and instruction. Perhaps many of us find much that we still read with some such feelings without even looking beyond the sermon on the mount. But we look at the same passage again, and what a change! It is all new, and so full and clear a meaning is conveyed to our mind through the familiar words that we look upon them with wonder. We have had some new experience since we last saw them. The words answer to something within. We now believe, and we know too what it is to believe. Something has occurred to us that we deemed a great misfortune, perhaps, and deeply regretted, or something that we looked upon as an important benefit, certain to yield much pleasure. But the affliction has been borne with a serenity we would not have thought possible, or the benefit has failed to give the satisfaction expected. Through both, or either, we have been taught to look with distrust upon earthly things, and our minds have been led to the contemplation of things eternal. As we open the Bible we are surprised to see in some place we thought familiar our own late experience recounted and explained, and the result of all our deep reflections and unfathomable feelings presented to us. We are thus made to feel that it is God who has been leading us in ways that we have not known through afflictions and supposed prosperity, separating us from the world and turning our hearts to himself by his Spirit, enforcing instruction through his providential dealings with us, and thus giving us the comfortable assurance that we are children of the heavenly Jerusalem and certain inheritors of all the blessings pronounced upon her, having already begun to experience the fulfillment of that declaration concerning her, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children."
It is not until we have experienced the condemnation of the law and the sentence of death in ourselves, that we read and understand that,,, “ The soul that sinneth, it shall die. " The commandment does not come to us through the written word. We are able to feel the force and see the glory of what stands written there, because the commandment has already come to us, sin has revived, and we have died. The word describes our trouble, and shows it to be in consequence of sin abounding, or manifested by the entrance of the law.
It is not until we have experienced salvation in ourselves that we know the meaning of the blessed Name of Jesus. When we have felt some degree of peace from trouble, peace strange and unaccountable because we think we ought still to be in trouble on account of the host of sins which we have not overcome nor atoned for; when a sense of mercy, extended in our perfect helplessness seems softly to enter our hearts, melting them in gratitude - when a, kind of infinite love that we can not express swells within us toward the infinite Being in whose mercy we hope - then do we know Jesus as the Savior from sin, and the Prince of peace. However the circumstances may differ through which we are taught, the same truths are brought to the knowledge of all. However imperfectly the experience of any may be expressed, it will still bear the unmistakable impress of God's hand in teaching, harmonizing with what is written in the word. It will show a knowledge of sin, a recognition of the holiness and justice of God, a feeling of separation from the world, a distrust of human help, and a hope for salvation resting alone upon the mercy of God, through grace that is in Christ Jesus.
The wisdom contained in the Scriptures is infinite. The little that we are able to see of it causes us to exclaim in wonder, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God." But little of what is there contained is fully opened to the understanding and brought to bear upon the mortal pilgrimage of any one child of God. To each is given such measure of wisdom and knowledge as is necessary for his own instruction, and for the fulfillment of his work in the church. But little of the whole array of scriptural testimony is given for use to any one branch of the church; but little perhaps to any one age. But when the mystery of God shall be finished, when every member from the first to the last shall have been brought together unto the perfect man, and the whole body shall stand in perfect manifestation, then it will be seen that no smallest part of the sacred word has been written in vain; that all Scripture has been profitable; that the church in the minutest experience of each of its members through all the course of time, and in its perfected glory, was all represented in the inspired volume.
If the law of God is written in the heart of each of God's children, one might ask, How can we account for the ignorance in which we remain so long, and for the necessity of continued instruction and repeated reproof? We may illustrate by referring to the child. The whole law concerning our natural life exists in the child, and all the instruction which it afterwards receives concerning its physical existence is based upon that law. He may be slow in receiving knowledge, but whether it come sooner or later, he will be referred by it to what has existed unnoticed in himself all the time. He may be long in learning what is hurtful or poisonous to his system, but when the discovery is made it will be but the bringing to his notice a law always in existence. So when the Spirit of God, or the divine life, is communicated in the new birth, it carries with it the law of its being. We are led about and instructed, and given such measure of knowledge and development as God will, and each one fitted for his place and duty.
When we preach the expectation of our natural mind is, that those who hear will acknowledge the power of truth and believe. What preacher has not at times felt a sort of disappointment and discouragement, when, after presenting the truth as he supposed quite clearly, feeling it very forcible and convincing in his own mind, so that it seemed impossible that any should resist it, he has seen only manifestations of hatred, contempt, or indifference toward it from all except the few who were already believers, and perhaps coldness from many of them. But our faith tells us that those only will hear and attend whose hearts God has opened; that our preaching can affect none who have not been quickened. And when we remember how long we listened before we beard, we have no reason to be disappointed. God does not allow us to magnify our own power by attributing to it the effect of the truth. The faith of the elect stands not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. When the truth has free course, and finds open ears and understanding hearts to rejoice in it, we know that God has already spoken there; that he has put his law in the mind that understands it, and written it in the hearts that receive and feel it, and we say, “This is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes."
As with the doctrine, so with all the injunctions, admonitions, and reproofs ; they are heard only by circumcised ears, and their force acknowledged only by the heart that has already felt them.
Endeavor to enforce the command to be baptized, and who will be persuaded to obey it in its strictness as a command of our Savior but the one in whose heart he has written that law. “Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. " " Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice." To whom do these and the like injunctions come with power? Does any cease to love the world because he sees it so written here? Is malice against an enemy driven from the breast where it has rested, does bitterness for wrongs received cease to rankle in the heart because the eye has rested upon these words, or the ear heard them repeated? Those who believe the doctrine that the Bible is but to teach men how to become Christians and secure a place in heaven, have need to look carefully to themselves when they read these things, for the work of driving the love of the world, with all evil passions, out of the natural heart, which, according to their doctrine, they must do or perish, must be a difficult one to perform. Indeed it is nothing else than creating a new heart and a new spirit, which is the requirement of God, before they can be received, Ezk., xviii, 31, and the fact that those who hold this doctrine rest satisfled short of this work, which man can not perform, shows the hypocrisy and ignorance of their professions.
Those who really feel the force of these admonitions and desire to render obedience, are such as have been born again and possess a new spirit opposed in its nature to the carnal mind. They desire to obey the precepts of the gospel, not as a means of reaching heaven, but because there is a love of holiness and a hatred of sin within them. The love of the world in the unchanged natural heart as well as the evil passions that exist there, is daily rebuked in the experience of the Christian. When allowed to rule him it grieves the Holy Spirit of God by which he has been sealed unto the day of redemption, as any thing hurtful to the natural life gives physical suffering. The physical system recognizes with pain the introduction of poison into the blood; the body recoils from the touch of fire; so the Spirit of holiness within us recognizes and is grieved by worldliness and all evil. When the soul that has felt these inward chastenings and warnings hears the reproofs and admonitions given by inspiration to God's children, answering so perfectly to that within, the effect is not only to humble, but to comfort by additional confirmation of his hope; and he rejoices in the chastisements and afflictions that have torn his affections away from the world. To him, reproofs of instruction are the way of life."
The command of our Savior is, that we shall not resist evil; that when reviled we shall not revile again; but that we shall render good to them that hate and despitefully use us. Among the multitude who profess to believe the Bible, how many will you find who receive these sayings? They are a part of that dividing sword of the Spirit by which those are separated from the world and manifested, who have been taught of God. They will have an effect upon the heart of the quickened sinner. If he has taken a place among scorners, these words will be sharp arrows, causing trouble that those among whom he has strayed do not feel. He who possesses the Spirit of Christ must be conscious of a feeling that accords with the example and precepts of Christ, and must therefore suffer when he walks contrary thereto. As we learn more and more the plague of our own hearts and utter vanity of all things worldly, we shall feel more the spirit that is expressed in these commands.
I had much trouble in my own mind before it was settled upon this subject of resistance, and established upon the principles concerning carnal warfare which I now hold to be true. I have still much trouble on the subject on account of my own rebellious nature, but I have had no doubt of the truth of those principles for more than two years. When I began to consider the question as one of vital importance to me, whether a Christian was allowed to use carnal weapons, I looked carefully at the teachings of our Savior in the sermon on the mount, and had to acknowledge that they seemed to settle it. I felt, however, that I could not yield, and tried to make it appear to myself that he meant something else. My nature revolted at the idea of tamely submitting to injustice. I have a fighting disposition, and was willing to justify myself in yielding to it. But I was not at rest about it. I observed that whenever I had a season of spiritual enjoyment and peace, my heart was free from all such feelings as would lead to strife, and I experienced an inclination to forgive, and rather to suffer wrong that to contend. At such times nothing in the world seemed worth an angry thought or a moment's strife. I could not hide from myself that my belligerent spirit was a source of great trouble in my selfexamining thoughts, and that when yielded to, even where right clearly appeared to be on my side, there was a feeling of condemnation and unworthiness within me on account of it. Then, too, it was indisputable that our Savior, whose Spirit I trusted I had received, never resisted. “When reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." And in this very particular we are expressly told that he has left us an example that we should follow in his steps; I Pet.ii 21-23. Neither among the apostles could I find an example to warrant or favor in the least degree the indulgence of that spirit which would lead to carnal strife. Both they and our Savior often escaped out of the hands of their enemies, but never resisted. I still feel, as I then felt, a disposition averse to following such examples, or acknowledging such a rule, and I know that whenever left to the sway of my own disposition I shall act contrary to it; but I know also that whatever of the Christian spirit and disposition there is within me rejoices in that rule, and desires to follow those examples.
I could not but acknowledge, also, that whenever I or others undertook to defend the asserted right to use carnal weapons, we did not bring our arguments from the Scriptures, as we did when contending for other points of doctrine; nor did we attempt to sustain our cause by referring to our spiritual exercises, to the deep and sweet feelings of peace and joy that we could regard as heavenly, to the humility, the self-abasement, the spirit of self-denial, nor to any of the teachings of the Christian experience; but that, like all opposers of the truth, we appealed to the carnal mind, and argued from the supposed necessities of the case in the light of reason, producing arguments resting precisely upon the same ground with those urged against the doctrine of predestination and unconditional election, and which, in those cases, we had always thought sufficiently answered by a simple presentation of Scripture.
We seemed continually to feel the necessity of explaining away some Scripture which would persistently stand in the way of our theory. Every point of doctrine, every portion of Scripture that was opened to my mind opposed and rebuked the theory. “The circumcision of Christ" by which we put off the sins of the flesh and are separated from all confidence in human strength ; our crucifixion to the world our baptism into death, and resurrection to newness of life our union in Christ with tile bond of perfectness which is charity; the secret walls of salvation that separate us from the world and enclose us in the sacred place of the Most High; the announcement, when our Savior appeared, of, "On earth peace, good will toward men; " how many glorious things like these, as they were presented to my mind, showed clearly that the tendency of all the doctrine is opposed to the idea that Christians may enter into carnal strife. They are armed with only spiritual weapons, and have no use for any other.
I could not indulge the idea that my body was ever to be guided by any but the Spirit of Christ without disobedience to him; that I might do as a member of human society what I could not der as a subject of his kingdom. The Christian has two natures, but I could not find that he is allowed to serve two masters, and obey two opposing codes of laws. On the contrary, every imagination is to be cast down, and every thought brought " into captivity to the obedience of Christ," while the body is to be kept in subjection, and rendered a living sacrifice. When we are brought into the kingdom of Christ we are henceforth under the direction of his laws in all things. And they are not deficient They are a sufficient lamp to our feet every step of the way through our mortal pilgrimage. In regard to all our worldly affairs they are clear and explicit.
What does it matter where and what we are in the world if Christ be ours? If this were not enough the direction would not be given, that every man should abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Paul would not have been able to say, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content," if it were necessary to fight for the acquisition or preservation of any worldly advantage; for he suffered a great deal of wrong. We are told we must suffer trouble and persecution in the world. Why so, if we may be allowed to fight ? Why not strengthen ourselves with human armor against wicked men ? Men of the world contend for worldly honors and possessions. It is all they have. “ The wicked prosper in the world." “Their feet are swift to shed blood." But we have no inheritance here, and no necessity for fighting. We are pilgrims and strangers, and are under the protection of him without whom not a h air of our heads can fall to the ground. “He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail." We need no longer imagine instances wherein it would seem necessary to fight. Those who were sent out without purse or scrip did not object, that if they followed those directions they would certainly starve or be killed. It is never necessary to disobey the teaching of Christ or the direction of his Spirit.
May we be kept, while in the body surrounded by temptation from being led away by our heart's lusts, that we may not be ashamed at the coming of Christ. We Shall certainly fall in the hour of temptation if left to ourselves. Let us " be diligent, that we may be found of him in peace without spot and blameless." When we come to lie down at last we shall fully realize what we have so imperfectly learned as yet, that in all the world there is nothing worth a wish or thought, much less the pain consequent upon the indulgence of angry passions, and strife, in disobedience to Christ.
If God is mine, then present things And things to come are mine ;
Yea, Christ, his word, and Spirit, too, And glory all divine.
If God is mine, let friends forsake, Lot wealth and honor flee ;
Sure he who giveth me himself Is more than these to me."