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DEAR BROTHER WILLIAM: – As your correspondent of the Wilderness of Sin and signing his name “Onesimus,” in the MESSENGER of the 15th May, says he earnestly desires instruction on certain points, and for the purpose of obtaining it has requested you, and especially Elders Moore, Mitchell and myself to give our views. If we all attend to his request I hope he may get some profitable instruction. The Lord found Jacob in a desert land in the waste howling wilderness, he led him about and instructed him. If the same Lord has found our enquiring brother, and led him about and instructed him, he surely has forgotten, or did not call to mind the important lessons taught him, or he never would have used such language as the following:

“Is it really profitable to a church already declining to such an extent as to almost have lost her visibility, for her pastor to comfort her with the assurances of solid Bible doctrine, such as Predestination, Divine Sovereignty, Particular Personal Election, &c., to the exclusion of exhortations to the poor careless sinner, even to ask God to do for him that which he cannot do for himself, and awake to a sense of his awful condition before it is everlastingly too late?” Again, “Is the gospel to be preached on all occasions, or is it not better to excite the feelings of the people by interspersing pathetic anecdotes to put the minds of the congregation in a fit frame of feeling to be open to receive the gospel truth?”

To our unknown querist I would say, I do believe it is profitable, really so, to the Church of Christ, under any and all circumstances, whether in a prosperous or declining condition to have preached to her, solid, Bible doctrine, such as Predestination, Divine Sovereignty, Particular Personal Election, &c., not, however, to the exclusion of the solid Bible doctrine teaching us the utter inability of sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, to do or think, or pray acceptably with God, and of course, such being destitute of spiritual or divine life could not pray, or call upon him in whom they have not believed. Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him. This faith is the gift of God and the fruit of the Spirit, then while the poor sinner is dead in trespasses and sins, he is a natural man, and receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned. Gospel exhortations then are unprofitable to such as are dead in sins, and careless, because what they hear is not mixed with faith in them, and it is unreasonable to suppose that one so dead and careless would awake himself or be awakened by exhortations from preachers, to a sense of his awful condition, before it is everlastingly too late.

It is a pleasing reflection to me, however, that God has not left us even to suppose that it can be too late for him to save sinners, but to the contrary he says; “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion.” They shall come from the East and from the West, &c. “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Then brother Onesimus how can it be everlastingly too late for God’s chosen or elect people? How could it be soon enough for anybody else?

In noticing the last enquiry I must say that I am sure the gospel is to be preached on all occasions by the ministers of Jesus Christ, and instead of interspersing pathetic anecdotes preparing the mind of hearers, or putting them in a fit frame of feeling to receive gospel truth, it takes nothing short of the operation of the Holy Spirit of God to prepare the hearts of poor fallen sinners for the reception of the truth of the gospel when preached in their hearing, and to give us a caution against such as come preaching anecdotes or falsehoods to excite the passions and tickle the fancy of sinful and proud nature. God tells us, II Tim.4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Take care, brother Onesimus, and watch in all things. The Lord says by Jude, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness {or looseness and jocularity,} and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” “These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.” “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” While such carnal anecdotes can please the natural senses of our neighbors and children, they can have nothing to do with bringing them to realize everlasting salvation, nor to love and listen to the truth they would otherwise despise to hear. I hope this will not be offensive, but serve to direct the mind of our unknown brother, more particularly to the Scriptures and to God for wisdom.

Yours in love,
D.W. Patman.
Oglethorpe Co., Georgia, May 29, 1857.