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“For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, {as there be gods many, and lords many,} but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” I Cor.8:5,6.

The Apostle, in this text, gives the saints a sufficient warning against worshiping idols, or objects of human devotion that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, or in other words, whether in the church or in the world. We find, by reading this letter preceding the text, that a majority of the church at Corinth, in that early age of the gospel dispensation had their idols in the church, or in heaven, as the church is often called in the Scriptures. In the 1st chapter of this letter and 12th verse, the Apostle uses this plain language, “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.” The whole church, every one of them, is included, as accounting what they were as christians or church members to have been, either of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or of Christ. In this divided condition they were not of the same mind, nor judgment, and of course did not speak the same things. Will any one conclude that the church is now less subject to get into such errors than she was then? Surely not. In the third chapter and twenty-first verse the Apostle says, “Therefore let no man glory in men, for all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas,” &c., showing that the church, instead of viewing them as lords, or gods, should look upon them as servants of the church, only men, and not to be gloried in as such. It is worthy of notice, that neither of the three they were idolizing or glorying in, were false prophets, but ministers by whom they had believed, {not by whom or through whom they were quickened, or made alive,} even as the Lord gave to every man. I Cor.3:5. The Lord gave them every qualification they had to preach, and gave the church faith to believe what they had preached, so that they were as ministers, and what the church was as believers, was all of the Lord and his grace, and they as ministers of course were not entitled to the glory, or praise from their brethren, and we have no reason to believe they desired it, but were anxious that the church should all with one voice give God the glory, and acknowledge they were of Christ only. From the circumstances we have just referred to, members of the church of Christ should be admonished never to idolize their preacher, but remember that he is a man of like passions with themselves, and equally liable to err. Preachers should also be admonished never to claim or desire praise or reverence from their brethren; evidence of brotherly love and christian affection is sufficient for all, as the following text will show; “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.” John 13:35. There is a manifest difference between christian love one for another as children of the same heavenly Father, and a regard for each other because of literary advantages, or personal qualities which we admire in each other as men. The first and most powerful principle of the christian religion is love to God, and the christian exercised thereby, loves the character the most, {let him be found where he may,} that talks and acts so as to give the most honor and glory to the God he loves. Hence the preacher that most clearly preaches salvation to be exclusively of the Lord, and to give Him all the glory, is loved the best by the christian, not because of his eloquence as a man, but because his preaching is in praise of the God of his salvation, and reproof from the preacher to the christian in this situation will prove as excellent oil. But let his regard for the preacher be selfish or fleshly, and everything hurts except it tends to his praise or exaltation. Church members under the influence of the flesh, whether preachers or not, forever seek their own praise or to have their own way, and everything that does not render all required proves offensive. Members in this situation can never settle difficulties in a church, or amongst themselves. But let them be under the power and influence of that love or charity, which suffereth long and is kind, envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, &c. I Cor.13. I say, let the church members all be in this condition, and it is impossible for difficulties to come in to mar their peace; if, however, under the influence of the flesh any should so act as to bring difficulties in the church, {which we are all liable to while in the flesh,} let the charity above described be in exercise and the offender will heartily confess his sins, and the offended will as heartily forgive, and apparently the worst of difficulties can be settled amongst christians.

To illustrate the subject of making idols or gods of men or preachers in the church, I will here relate a circumstance that occurred soon after the division of the Baptists in this State. I was traveling to the Ocmulgee Association, and called to stay all night with an uncle of mine who was a warm advocate of the moneyed institutions, falsely called benevolent. When he met me at the gate he burst into tears, and said he was very glad to see me, but was very sorry I had gone off with the old Hard-Shells, as he called them, and said he could convince me that night of my error, and was glad of the opportunity. I told him I was open for conviction, and what ever he proved by the Scriptures I would not resist. He soon began to speak in praise of his preacher, and said if I could hear him, he could convince me with but little trouble, and so he kept praising his preacher, telling me how, and what he preached, &c., till I told him he had started wrong to convince me, that he must get his Bible, for that was all I received as proof. The Bible was soon brought, and he opened to his Scriptures to prove the moneyed institutions, and the many societies they had invented, and I showed him plainly from the connection of his own texts, and from good reasons that they did not authorize any such things; when he replied, apparently with astonishment, “Surely! Surely! Old brother ____,” calling the preacher’s name, “can’t be wrong!” After making the same remark several times, we dropped the subject, with the impression on my mind that he was glorying in the preacher, and not in the Lord. So I left him and went on, and have never had an opportunity to converse with him since, and never can in this world, for he has departed this life.

When we look at the state of Christianity now, we plainly see that though all acknowledge in word, one only true and living God, and one Lord Jesus Christ, yet a large majority by their devotions give plain evidence that they do not worship the only true and living God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. John 17:2. For whoever says in their devotion, that the salvation of sinners in whole or in part is dependent upon the works of men, denies that salvation is of the Lord. And whoever gives their money or labor in support of religious societies or institutions which are not fully and plainly authorized in the New Testament, is an idolater, and is worshipping some other god than the God of the Bible. “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.”

Hence the Apostle represents the God of Heaven and earth, as one Lord, and Father of the church, of whom are all things, in which he is immutable or unchangeable, a God of purpose, of power, of wisdom, justice, and love. Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, Word and Holy Ghost, yet not three Gods, but one God, the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega; holding the keys of death and hell to the church, the first cause, and last great end; and Paul says, “and we in him,” “and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” Here the church is said to be in God, by Jesus Christ; bringing him to view in his Mediatorial character by whom and for whom the world and all its fullness was made, and the church chosen in him before the foundation of the world, which has been and will be in his own good time manifested by him who has called and will call his own sheep by name and lead them out by his Spirit and power. And who is it that worships the true and living God, that can fear the following permanent promise will not be fully carried out? Read Psalm 2:8, which is the language of the eternal Father to the eternal Son or Mediator, “Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Again, Psalm 110:3, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning; thou hast the dew of thy youth.” Matt.1:21, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 10:16, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd.” John 17:2 & 6, “As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word.” John 17:9, “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.” These texts are sufficient to prove that the whole church, whether believers, or yet dead in sins, was given to Jesus before the world was, and he was and is the life of the church, chosen in him before the world began, and because life and salvation was given them in him, they shall every one be called with an holy and effectual calling, and shall be saved by him from their sins, independent of the works of men, and taken home to glory at last, without the possibility of a failure. Many, in the bounds of my acquaintance who are very zealous, professedly in the service of God, seem perfectly disgusted at such as the foregoing texts and doctrine, saying if that be true, there is no use in praying, preaching, or any other good work. One who worships the true and living God would no more say so, than Noah asked God why he required him to build the Ark, or Abraham asked God why he required him to offer his son Isaac. Love to God is the mainspring to christian obedience, therefore says Jesus, “If ye love me keep my commandments.” The faith of God’s elect works by love, purifies the heart and overcomes the world. So that God’s people serve him because they love him, and not because by so doing they expect to help at least to accomplish their salvation, as well as that of others. The duties of God’s children are all laid down in the New Testament, and his Holy Spirit impresses them exactly consistent therewith, and it is not voluntarily that the christian discharges his duty, but it is of necessity, for while the Spirit of which he is born again is always ready and willing to discharge duty, the flesh forever opposes it, and has to be denied in the discharge of every religious duty, and after he has done the best he can, he feels that he is an unprofitable servant, having done only that which was his duty, and in such a poor manner too, that he feels ashamed of himself, but has no fault to find of God, nor his word. While all such as worship some other god, though they profess to love God, yet they give evidences of hatred to his word, which fully and plainly teaches the doctrine of unconditional salvation by sovereign grace alone. Such religionists generally go to work voluntarily, and in proportion to the quantity of works performed they increase in bigotry, self-confidence, and boldness in their rejoicings and boastings. James 4:16. Such work-mongers are in the habit of voluntarily setting times at certain seasons of the year to have revivals, and they seldom fail to get up human excitements and drag members into their churches; but only while their efforts continue, do their revivals last – their god does nothing, only as they move him to do it, and when they stop, he stops until about the same time next year, when they voluntarily go to revival making again, and then he is at their service. There are truly gods many, and lords many; and the devotions of men manifest the gods they worship. Some preach a god which they say designs the salvation of the world, which he can soon accomplish, provided men and money enough can be had; but if not, thousands must be lost for want of these means. A poor pitiful god this is indeed. Others preach a god who they say has made the way of salvation possible for all men, {but sure for none,} and is now doing all he can through his preachers and other means, and by the strivings of his spirit – wooing and beseeching sinners, but that many are so stubborn that he cannot succeed in saving them. This cannot be the true God, because he is inferior in power to sinners who successfully resist him; and surely he is wanting in wisdom, or else he would not have undertaken such hard cases only to be treated with contempt and made to take his flight. What such a god can do depends entirely on what sinners will let him do, and help him to do. Not so with the God of salvation; for he says, Isaiah 46:9,10, “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”

May God enable all his children to confide in Him and His word, remembering that the work of God in saving sinners is one thing, and their duty to Him after they are actually saved, is another thing, and the effect of God’s work, all of which are plainly laid down in His revealed word.

Yours in love,
D.W. Patman.
Lexington, Oglethorpe Co., Georgia, Dec. 2, 1852.