"know no man after the flesh"
“It was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
I am no man’s personal enemy. I have neither time nor inclination to trouble myself about persons, or their affairs. But when they approach me on the premises of the Truth, then they are either my friends or my foes, and I am theirs. I am their friend for the Truth’s sake. I would rather be the friend than the foe of anyone upon any ground. This is the bent of my fleshly nature; and if men will not be friendly, I do not feel resentful, but my disposition is to give them a wide birth.
This is the natural man. But if they pretend to be the friends of the Truth, and they are neither intelligent in, nor faithful to, what I believe to be the Truth, and will not consent to be instructed, then I have a duty to perform as one of Christ’s brethren, in obedience to apostolic injunction, and that is, to “Contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). And in so doing, which is well-doing (1Pet 2:15) “To put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” that their “mouths being stopped,” they may no longer “Subvert whole houses, and lead captive silly people laden with sins” (Tit 1:11).
In the performance of the duty common to all the faithful, I do not wait to be attacked. If no one will go with me to the assault, I go alone, with the determination to scatter them, or be demolished in the attempt; in which, however, I do not expect to succeed, because: “The saints are prevailed against till the Ancient of Days comes” (Dan 7:22).
Why then labour in expected failure? To obey the injunction and prove my own faith. In this spiritual warfare, whose weapons are neither lead nor steel, but more effective than either for putting to flight the aliens, there is neither truce, armistice, neutrality, nor peace. He that is not with us is against us; and he that gathereth not with us, scattereth abroad. I, for one, know no man in this warfare as a brother and friend who is neutral or not gathering. A man who is neutral stands by with arms folded and sees the enemy crushing me to death! He believes in the cause I am fighting for, but he calmly views my destruction without any sign of help.
Is such a man my friend and brother? Is he not rather a sympathizer with the enemy? If he helped me, we might prove too strong for the foe; the enemy knowing this cannot look upon neutrals in any other light than his friends. And this is just where Christ puts all neutrals in the good fight of faith.
But if this be the position of neutrals, what shall be said of those who either oppose or nullify what we believe to be the Truth? Who not only so, but seek to destroy the influence of those who have, while they were mere heathens, proved themselves through evil and through good report, and when the Truth had few to say a good word for it—what shall be said of them?
They may virtually acquiesce in the theory of the Truth, but can we call them friends and brethren? Are they Christ’s brethren? If they were Christ’s brethren, they would love the zealous and disinterested advocates of the Truth, and would be careful to do nothing that would embarrass them. Shall I call such enemies of Christ, my friends and brethren? I tell you, nay; I will have none such, if I know it. They are my enemies, and it is my duty to make war upon them.
If I belong to the Spirit’s witnessing prophets clothed in sackcloth (Rev 11) and any man will to injure me in my witnessing, it is my duty to devour him with the fire of my mouth—to torment him with my testimony. If he persist in storming our works, then “He must in this manner be killed”.
I have no sympathy with a yea-and-nay profession and advocacy of the Truth. It does no good to the professor, to those who are associated with him, nor to those dwelling in outer darkness. “The whole world lieth in the evil one” (1Jno 5:19) – in Sin; and the only exception to this are the untraditionalized believers of the Truth we believe and teach and have obeyed; and who are walking as little children therein.
If we are these Scriptural exceptions, we have nothing to do but keep clear of this evil world, and to testify against all the traditions it would substitute for the Truth, or by which it may seek to nullify it.
The greatest and most dangerous enemies to Christ are those who pretend to be his friends, but who are not faithful to his doctrine; and they are unfaithful who from any motives of personal interest would weaken the point of doctrine, or soften it for gratification of their natural feelings, or for fear of hurting the feelings of the enemy, and so affecting their popularity with him.
THE WORK BEFORE US
We have a great and important work before us. It is to bring people to the understanding of the ancient apostolic doctrine, and to the obedience of faith, in the form inculcated by them upon all believers. If our friends faithfully and intelligently execute this mission they will be placed in opposition to all the world—they will find themselves in the position of the Spirit’s witnessing prophets, standing in the court of the Gentiles, and bearing testimony against “The god of the earth” with all the power, learning and influence of the Great Harlot, her State daughters, and dissenting abominations arrayed against them; and besides all this, the heartlessness and cowardice and treachery of professed neutrals and friends.
To take up such a position, and to maintain it without surrender, requires knowledge and faith working by love of what is known. Hence the necessity of meditation upon the Word.
This will develop faith, and the more an honest-hearted man understands of the Word untraditionalized by what is falsely called “science,” the more enlarged and the stronger will his faith become; and the more valiant will he be for the Truth, and the more efficient for the work before him as a “witness,” a “prophet,” a “lightstand,” and “olive tree” before the “deity of the earth.” The light of Truth must shine clearly in a man’s head before he can speak critically or accurately upon “the deep things of the Spirit.” and if you undertake to implant these in the brains of the Modern Athenians, who, like their brethren of old time, are exceedingly fond of gossip, you must be bright and lucid in your irradiations, that you may shine away the darkness of the subtleties and the vagaries of the inner consciousness, with which the cup of the Old Harlot has crazed and intoxicated them.
And this you will find to be, if you have not already done so, no easy work to do. The traditions radiating infinitely and at all angles, form almost an impenetrable cloud—a cloud which befogs everything, and renders it impervious to “the simplicity that is in Christ”.
But shall we despair? By no means. The work before us at present, is not to demolish Antichrist, and the tradition with which he is clothed as with a black and threatening cloud. This is beyond our power, as it is extra to the mission of the saints against whom he has prevailed almost “forty and two months.” His demolition is their work when joined therein by the Ancient of days. This is their patience and faith (Rev 13:10, 14:12). The saints are waiting for this.
In the meantime, they hold the position of the witnesses for Jesus; and it is required in witnesses, who are stewards of the testimony, that they be faithful after the example of Christ and Antipas (Rev 1:5; 3:14; 2:13).
At present, they have to show the Truth in every way that will make the Truth shine; that it may stand out in the foreground of the picture so distinctly from all surroundings, that observers at a glance may distinguish it in all its outlines, without any possibility of confounding it with the dark cloud of the things beyond.
This is the work for us to do, that men seeing the photograph, Christ, written upon their minds by the testimony which is light, may confess that it is a true, faithful, and beautiful picture; and embracing it with affectionate hearts, may so put it into their bosom, and become married, or rather betrothed, unto the Lord.
In this way an enlightened, and affectionate and valiant people will be prepared for him; who will not only be watching for him, but—with garments kept, and lamps well trimmed with the golden oil of the good olive tree—will be ready to enter in on the closing of the door against all the world.
John Thomas (1865)