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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      A word to the regenerated.--You have experienced the truth of the promise, and being induced by that promise, you have become, like Isaac, the children of promise. You heard the testimony of God concerning Jesus of Nazareth, and you believed it. You were, in consequence of your faith, so disposed towards the person of Jesus, as to be willing to put yourselves under his guidance. This faith and this will brought you to the water. You were not ashamed, nor afraid to confess him before men. You solemnly declared you regarded him as God's only Son, and the only Saviour of men. You vowed allegiance to him. Down into the water you were led. Then the name of the Holy One upon your faith, and upon your person, was pronounced. You were then buried in the water under that name. It closed itself upon you. In its womb you were concealed. Into the Lord, as in the water, you were immersed. But in the water you continued not. Of it you were born, and from it you came forth, raised with Jesus, and rising in his strength. There your consciences were released; for there your old sins were purged away. And although you received not the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which confirmed the testimony to the first disciples, you felt the powers of the world to come, were enlightened, and tasted the bounty of God: for seasons of refreshment from the presence of God came upon you. Your hearts were sprinkled from evil consciences, when your bodies were washed in the cleansing [573] water. Then into the kingdom of Jesus, you entered. The King of righteousness, of peace, and joy, extended his sceptre over you, and sanctified in state, and in the Spirit, you rejoiced in the Lord with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Being washed, you were sanctified, as well as acquitted. And now you find yourselves under the great Advocate, so that sin can not lord it over you; for you always look to the great Advocate to intercede for you, and thus if sin should overtake you, you confess and forsake it, and always find mercy. Adopted thus into the family of God, you have not only received the name, the rank, and the dignity; but also the Spirit of a son of God, and find, as such, that you are kings, priests, and heirs of God. You now feel that all things are yours, because you are Christ's; and Christ is God's. The hope of the coming regeneration of the heavens and the earth, at the resurrection of the just, animates you. You look for the redemption, the adoption of your bodies, and their transfiguration. For this reason, you purify yourselves even as he is pure. Be zealous, then, children of God; publish the excellencies of him who has called you into this marvellous light and bliss. Be diligent, that you may receive the crown that never fades, and that you may eat of the tree of life which grows in the midst of the Paradise of God. If you suffer with Jesus, you will reign with him. If you should deny him, he will deny you. Add, then, to your faith, courage, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, and universal benevolence; for if you continue in these things and abound, you shall not be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But should you be deficient in these things, your light will be obscured, and a forgetfulness that you have been purified from your old sins will come upon you. Do, then, brethren, labor to make your calling and election sure; for thus practicing, you shall never fall; but shall have an easy and abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

      A word to the unregenerate.--Amongst you are sundry classes of character. Some of you who believe the gospel, and are changed in heart, quickened by the Spirit, are not generally ranked amongst the unregenerate. In the popular sense of this term, you are regenerate. But we use it in its Scriptural acceptation. Like Nicodemus, and like Joseph of Arimathea, you believe in Jesus, and are willing to take lessons from him in the chambers. You have confidence in his mission, respect and venerate, and even love his person; and would desire to be under his government. Marvel not that I say to you, You must be born again. Pious as you are supposed to be, and as you may think yourselves to be, unless you are born again, you can not enter into the kingdom of God. Cornelius and his family were as devout and as pious as any of you. "He feared God, gave much alms to the people, [574] and prayed to God continually." Yet, mark it well, I beseech you, it was necessary "to tell him words by which himself and his house might be saved." These words were told him: he believed them, and received the Holy Spirit; yet still he must be born again. For a person can not be said to be born again of any thing which he receives; and still less of miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. He was immersed, and into the kingdom of God he came. Do as Cornelius did, and then you will think of it in another light--then you would not for a world be unregenerate. To have the pledge, the promise, and seal of God of the remission of all your sins, to be adopted into his family, and to receive the Spirit of a son of God, be assured, my pious friends, are matters of no every day occurrence; and when you feel yourselves constitutionally invested with all these blessings, in God's own way, you will say, that "his ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts." It is hard to make a slave feel and act as a freeman. As difficult, we often find it, to make the unregenerate feel and know the value and importance of regeneration. But the regenerate would not be unregenerate for the universe.

      God has one way of bestowing every thing. We can not gather grapes off thorns, nor figs off thistles. The reason is, there they do not grow. We can tell no other reason why they can not grow there, but that they do not grow there. We can not have any blessing, but in God's own way of giving it. We can not find wool save on the back of the sheep, nor silk save from the worm which spins it from itself. Corn and wheat can not be obtained, but from those plants which yield them. Without the plant, we can not have the fruit. This is the economy of the whole material system. And in the world of spirits, and spiritual influences, is it not the same? Moral law is as unchangeable as the laws of nature. Moral means and ends are as inseparable as natural means and ends. God can not bestow grace upon the proud, and can not withhold it from the humble. He does not do it, and that is enough. He could shower down wheat and corn, and give us rivers of milk and wine, were it a question of mere power. But taking all together, his wisdom, power, and goodness, he can not do it. So neither can he give us faith without testimony, hope without a promise, love without an amiable object, peace without purity, nor heaven without holiness. He can not give to the unborn infant the light of the sun, the vivacity which the air imparts, nor the agility and activity which liberty bestows. He does not do it, and, therefore, we say, he can not do it. Neither can he bestow the blessings of the Reign of Heaven upon those who are children of disobedience. [575]

      I know how reluctant men are to submit to God's government; and yet they must all bow to it at last. "To Jesus every knee shall bow, and to him every tongue must confess." But they will object to bowing now, and torture invention for excuses. They will tell me all that I have said is true of natural and moral means and ends; but immersion is not a moral means, because God forgave sins and saved men before immersion was appointed. "It is a positive, and not a moral institution." And is there no moral influence connected with positive institutions? A written law is a positive institution: for moral law existed before written law. But because it has become a positive institution, has its moral power ceased? The moral influence of all positive institutions is God's WILL expressed in them. And it matters not whether it be the eating or not eating of an apple, the building of an altar, or the building it with, or without the aid of iron tools; the offering of a kid, a lamb, a bullock or a pigeon, it is just as morally binding, and has the same moral influence, as, "You shall honor your father and mother;" or, "You shall not kill." It is THE WILL OF GOD in any institution, which gives it all its moral and physical power. No man could now be pardoned as Abel was--as Enoch was--as David was--as the thief upon the cross was. These all lived before the second will of God was declared. He took away "the first will," says Paul, "that he might establish the second will" by which we are sanctified. We are not pardoned as were the Jews or the Patriarchs. It was not till Jesus was buried and rose again, that an acceptable offering for sin was presented in the heavens. By one offering up of himself, he has perfected the conscience of the immersed or sanctified. Since his oblation, a new institution for remission has been appointed. You need not flatter yourselves, that God will save or pardon you, except for Christ's sake; and if his name is not assumed by you, if you have not put him on, if you have not come under his advocacy, you have not the name of Christ to plead, nor his intercession on your behalf--and, therefore, for Christ's sake you can not be forgiven. Could Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, think you, if living now--could they, I ask, find forgiveness at the altar? And will you imagine, that he, who honored every institution by Moses, by connecting rewards and punishments with the obedience or disobedience of his commands, be less jealous for the honor of the institution of his Son? And will that Son who, for no other purpose than to honor his Father's institution, was immersed in the Jordan, bestow pardon or salvation upon any who refuse to honor him, and him that sent him? He has been graciously pleased to adapt means to ends. He has commanded immersion. for the remission of sins, and think you that he will change his institution, because of your stubborn or intractable disposition. As well, as reasonably might you pray for [576] loaves from heaven, or manna, because Israel ate it in the desert, as to pray for pardon while you refuse the remission of your sins by immersion.

      Demur not because of the simplicity of the thing. Remember how simple was the eating of the fruit of that tree, "whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe." How simple was the rod in the hand of Moses when stretched over Egypt and the Red Sea. How simple was looking at the brazen serpent. And how simple are all God's institutions. How simple the aliments of nature; the poisons too, and their remedies. Where the will of God is, there is omnipotence. 'Twas simple to speak the universe into existence. But God's will gives efficacy to every thing. And obedience ever was, and ever will be, the happiness of man. It is the happiness of Heaven. 'Tis God's philanthropy which has given us something to obey. To the angels who sinned he has given no command. 'Twas gracious to give us a command to live--a command to reform--a command to be born again--to live for ever. Remember light and life first came by obedience. If God's voice had not been obeyed, the water would not have brought forth the earth, nor would the sun have blessed it by his rays. The obedience of law was goodness and mercy; but the obedience of faith is favor, and life, and glory everlasting. None to whom this gospel is announced will perish, except those who know not God, and obey not the gospel of his Son. Kiss, then, the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish for ever.

      To the unregenerate of all classes, whose education and prejudices compel them to assent to the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James and Jude. You own the mission of Jesus from the bosom of the Eternal--and that is all you do! Each of you is living without God and without hope in the world--aliens from the family of God--of various ranks and grades among men; but all involved in one condemnation, because light has come into the world, and you love darkness, and the works of darkness, rather than the light. To live without hope is bad enough; but to live in constant dread of the vengeance of Heaven, is still worse. But do you tremble not at the word of God?

      If you can be saved here, or hereafter, then there is no meaning in language, no pain in the universe, no truth in God--Death, the grave, and destruction have no meaning. The frowns of Heaven are all smiles, if you perish not in your ways.

      But you purpose to bow to Jesus, and to throw yourselves upon his mercy at last. Impious thought! When you have given the strength of your intellect, the vigor of your constitution, the warmth of your affections, and the best energies of your life, to the world, the flesh, and the Devil; you will stretch out your palsied hands, and turn your dim [577] eyes to the Lord, and say, "Lord, have mercy upon me!" The first fruits and the fatlings for the Devil, and the lame and the blind for God, is the purpose of your heart; and the best resolution you can form!

      The thief upon the cross, had he done so, could not have found mercy. 'Tis one thing to have known the way of salvation, assented to it, and to have in deliberate resolution rejected it for the present, with a promise of obeying it at some future period, and to have never known it, nor assented to it, till the end of life. Promise not, then, to yourselves what has never happened to others. The Devil has always said, "You may give to-morrow to the Lord--only give me to-day." This has been all that he has asked, and this is what you are disposed to give. Promise not to-morrow to the Lord, for you will be still less disposed to give it when it comes; and the Lord has not asked you for to-morrow. He says, TO-DAY, when you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts. But you say, you are willing to come to the Lord to-day if you knew the way, or if you were prepared! Well, what does the Lord require of you as preparation? He once said, "Let the wicked man forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him: and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." He says also, "Draw nigh to me, and I will draw nigh to you;" "Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you men of two souls;" Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings;" "Reform and be converted;" "Turn to the Lord;" "Be immersed for the remission of your sins;" and "Submit to the government of Jesus." "What! just as I am!" Pray, how are you? Have you such a persuasion in your heart of the mission of Jesus, as God's own Son, and the only Saviour; and have you so much confidence in his personal character as to be willing to surrender yourself to him for the present and the future--for time and eternity? "I have," you say. As one that h as heard his voice, I say then, Come and be regenerated, and seasons of refreshment from the Lord will come to you.

      "But I thought I ought to feel like a Christian first, and to have the experience of a Christian, before I came to the Lord." Indeed? Did the Lord tell you so? "His ministers taught me so." It is hard knowing who are his ministers nowadays. His commissioned ministers taught you not so. They were not taught to say so. The Master knew that to wait for health before we went to the physician; to seek for warmth before we approached the fire; to wait till we ceased to be hungry before ever we approached the table--was not reasonable. And therefore, he never asked, as he never expected, any one to feel like a Christian before he was immersed, and began to live like a Christian. None but the citizens of any country can experience the good or evil [578] of the government which presides over it. None but the married can experience the conjugal relation and feelings. None but sons and daughters can have the experience of sons and daughters; and none but those who obey the gospel can experience the sweets of obedience. I need not add, that none but the disobedient can experience the pains, the fears, and terrors of the Lord, the shame and remorse which are the first fruits of the anguish and misery which await them in another world. As the disobedient, who stumble at the word, have the first fruits of the awful destruction from the presence of the Lord, which awaits them; so the obedient have the first fruits of the Spirit--the salvation of their souls, as an earnest until the salvation to be revealed at the coming of the Lord.

      And now let me ask all the unregenerate. What do you propose to yourselves by either delaying or refusing to come to the Lord? Will delaying have any tendency to fit you or prepare you for his salvation? Will your lusts have less power, or sin have less dominion over you by continuing under their control? Has the intoxicating cup by indulgence diminished a taste for it? Has the avarice of the miser been weakened or cured by yielding to it? Has any propensity been destroyed by gratifying it, in any other way than as it destroyed the animal system? Can you, then, promise yourselves that, by continuing in disobedience, you will love obedience, and be more inclined to submit when you have longer resisted the Spirit of God! Presume not on the mercy of God, but in the way that mercy flows. Grace has its channels, as the waters have their courses; and its path, as the lightning of the clouds. Each has its law, as fixed as the throne of God; and think not that God will work a miracle for your salvation.

      Think you that the family of Noah could have been saved if they had refused to enter into the Ark? Could the first born of Israel have escaped the destroying angel, but in houses sprinkled with blood? or could Israel have escaped the wrath of Pharaoh, but by being immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea? These things are written for our admonition upon whom the consummation of past ages has come. Arise, then, and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord. The many who refuse grace will neither prove you wise nor safe in disobedience.

"Multitudes are no mark--That you will right be found;
  A few were saved in the Ark,--For many millions drown'd.
  Obey the gospel call,--And enter while yon may:
  Christ's flock have long been small,--But none are safe but they."

[A. C.]      

      Alexander Campbell. "Conclusion." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 1 (July 1830): 55-60.


[MHA1 573-579]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)