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CORRESPONDENCE

State Road, Del., April, 1900.

Brother Beebe: – The Master said that every scribe that was instructed in the things of the kingdom was like an householder, &c. I suppose that we are to understand by this that he had enough in store to not only supply every want, but to keep up a continual variety. If gospel preachers and writers had a full comprehension of the needs of the people, the many mourners to be comforted, the hungry to be fed, inquirers to be instructed, the sad and desponding to be encouraged, and the weak and tempted to be strengthened, it seems to me there would be no time nor room for debate and strife. It has long been annoying to me, and especially so as the time might be so much better employed. I do not know why people should be fond of debate, as it always tends to alienation and division, and never brings contending parties together. I have been acquainted with quite a number of these debates, have seen them all the way through until they were finally abandoned to take up something else. The one that prevailed in my early life was on what was called the doctrine of the “Trinity.” It became a kind of test of orthodoxy; it was the one fundamental doctrine, upon which everything else was hinged, and not only phrases adopted and put forward that were unscriptural, but utterly extravagant and absurd. It seemed to add to a person’s reputation and notoriety to utter very extreme and original views. Not many now living will remember what an absorbing topic this was, and how much time and labor and talent wore wasted upon it. Where is it now! And what did all the arguments and disputes amount to! Will anybody contend now for the various phrases and extravagant sentiments that were contended for then! It will be conceded that it brought forth no good fruit. Other topics have followed in rapid succession. The word of God liveth and abideth forever, but these hobbies, or topics, die out, and leave no trace. I could name a half dozen or more that have been, and have ceased to be, since the one above alluded to, but I will pass them by now to notice some that are now being agitated.

Predestination is quite prominent now as a subject of debate. I have believed what the Scriptures teach on the subject about as far back as I can recollect. I believe the doctrine would continue to stand as set forth in the Scriptures without all these strenuous efforts to prop it up. The Scriptures are strong enough for me, so I do not care to insist on phraseology that is never used by inspired writers. I do not find the word in any recorded sermon of Christ, or of any of the apostles. Never once does the term occur in all the Old Testament. Peter and James and John and Jude, all of them writing to the churches, neither of them ever use the word. Yet some of our people seem to want to be called predestinarians, as though this word embraced all that they were as believers. Predestination of course has to do with the future; the arranging and foreordaining, or foreproviding, has to do with events in the future. The apostle argues at length from the work of creation that nothing was left unfinished. The Creator declared the work finished, and he continues to rest from creation work; nothing more needed, nothing more to ever be created. He goes on from this to argue that redemption is also a finished work. The Savior said it was finished; he was given to be the covenant, and embodied in himself all its provisions. It was everlasting, and ordered in all things and sure. The apostle John, in his apocalyptic visions, heard the Savior declare that he was the Alpha and the Omega, and that the great work that the Father gave him to do, was all done. What then remains to be prearranged or predestinated! Just the carrying out, in the personal experience of the election of grace, of this redemption work. They must be called to be saints, and must be subjects of the adoption of children and heirs. Everything must be fulfilled that was embraced in the original counsel of his will. While there have been some extravagant expressions indulged in, and some application of passages of Scripture that I could not indorse, yet I have not been objecting to what I understand our brethren to believe and advocate. But we have had so much of this, as though there was nothing else of any importance. Some three or four years ago most of those who wrote for the SIGNS wrote on this subject, some of them taking very questionable ground. Now all the old ground is being gone over and over again, the same arguments that have been ventilated scores of times. It is the sameness and reiterating the same things continually when no now light is thrown upon the subject, that I am calling attention to. The gospel mines are certainly not so nearly exhausted yet.

By the psalmist, the Lord charges somebody with thinking that he was altogether such an one as themselves. I am reminded of this by the reckless manner in which some writers speak of the holy One. God is a Spirit, a quickening, or life-giving Spirit. Nothing can emanate from him but what is pure and holy. He is separate from all the base and wicked passions that are common to depraved men.

A haughty and ambitious monarch might do many things to further his lust for dominion, and his power to oppress; he might love or hate without reason or principle, but the object of our worship and adoration is not a corporeal being as we are, neither is he a subject of the unhallowed passions that belong to human depravity. He is one Spirit, without variableness or shadow of turning, and there is no clashing or conflict in any of the divine perfections. As to his power, light is destined to prevail over darkness, truth over error, holiness over sin, life over death, and where sin has reigned, grace must and will reign, and death itself must die. All the powers and workings of darkness, sin and death, must be consumed with the Spirit of Jehovah’s mouth, and destroyed with the brightness of his coming.

I will notice one other matter, and then stop for this time. The apostle in one single instance speaks of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit as something that caused him trouble, but he at the same time exhorted his brethren, “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” I do not see in looking over the apostle’s life and ministry, where he failed to do the things that he should. At the close of his pilgrimage we hear him saying, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” He never apostatized, he never shunned to declare all the counsel of God, not counting oven his life dear unto himself. When he admonished, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean,” he never told them that they could not do it. I do not find myself reiterating continually to my hearers that they cannot do what they ought to. I believe that admonitions have a place in the gospel ministry, and that these things were not spoken in vain. The expression I have referred to is never used by any other inspired writer, and but once by Paul. We need not infer from this that it covers all the ground of the christian’s life and experience. I do not think it was intended as an excuse for wrong doing.

The Signs have been in my family from their commencement, and with regard to the great theme of salvation by grace, as the Rock on which they are built, they have received my uniform and hearty support. I have occasionally indulged, as I am doing now, in some suggestions that have borne upon my own mind, but as I trust with an abiding faith in and love of the truth.

E. RITTENHOUSE.

Signs Of The Times
Volume 68, No. 11.
JUNE 1, 1900.