Note: This Benjamin Franklin (1812-1878) was a descendant in the fourth generation from the brother of the statesman and philosopher Benjamin Franklin. He became a gospel preacher and preached during the time of the Restoration Movement.
It may seem strange that a human body, weighing one hundred and fifty pounds, would be disturbed by a little thorn in it, not an eighth of an inch long! But, strange as it may appear, it is a fact. And you cannot accustom the body to it by piercing the thorn deeper and deeper, ’til the body will become easy and comfortable; but you can in that way produce irritation, then inflammation, then mortification, and then death. Death has been produced in this way many times. He is no friend to the body who continues to push the thorn in deeper and deeper, nor is he who would excuse him in so doing, or encourage him in it. There is but one remedy, and that is to remove the thorn. Even if you have to make the wound much larger than it is, the thorn must be removed, or the end will be death.
There are cases in which a thorn might be pierced into the flesh an inch, and produce no pain or irritation; but they are cases where there is no life in the flesh. A thorn pierced into a dead body will produce no pain or irritation. A dead body has no power to resist it, and will make no effort. This is the reason precisely that a thorn produces no irritation or pain when pierced into certain bodies. They are dead bodies. It is no indication that the body is not alive and in healthy condition, to find it resisting foreign matter, and making an effort to remove obstructions; but when it cannot do this, the body must die. It cannot live and the obstruction remain, at least, only for a short time. But who will permit even a little thorn to remain in his flesh? We care not how little it may be; it is foreign, it is irritating, and, unless removed, will produce death.
It was a little thing for Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. Thomas Paine inquired, “What harm was there in eating an apple?” This is the watchword with all the unlawful things that people desire to do. “What harm is it?” When we worship according to Scripture we never inquire, “what harm is it?” It is not in doubt, and calls out no such inquiry. It is not under any suspicion. To worship according to Scripture is manifestly right. Why should we lag in anything in doubt, under suspicion, and repulsive to any portion of the body, when we have a divinely-prescribed worship held in no doubt?
It was a little thing for Achan to take a Babylonish garment, some silver, and a wedge of gold, and secrete them in his tent; but when he came to confess, it was not a little matter (Joshua 7.19-26). It was a little matter for Huzzah to “put forth his hand to hold the ark;” but he fell dead on account of it (1 Chronicles 13.9). What became of them who offered strange fire on God’s altar? “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10.1-2). That was a little matter; only slightly tampering with the worship; simply introducing a new element, which the Lord commanded them not, or did not command them. It is a fearful thing to tamper with the worship.
In one word: If “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward" in God’s dealings with men in former ages, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2.2-3)? If God allowed no departures in the typical worship, why should we assume that he will permit it in the worship typified? If everything had to be done according to the patterns given to Moses in the typical dispensation, how can any man infer that we may depart from the substance? We had better take heed now. We may not add anything, nor take any away from what the Lord gave. We may not preach any other gospel, or even pervert the gospel of Christ.
Some of the little matters now among us will be found sufficient to stop the ark of God, and cause more than three thousand to be defeated. If Moses were to address some of our men, he would say to them, as he did to Aaron, “What hath this people done to thee that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?” or as Joshua said to Achan, “Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day.” Let us hear and live.