MORAL SUASION OR NATURAL CONVICTION, VS. THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL.

To those who are unacquainted with the real grounds of difference between the views of the Old School Baptists and those of the new order, some remarks on the above subject may be interesting. The subject of evangelical faith is frequently treated as though there existed no difference between the natural convictions of the mental powers of man, and that faith which the apostle says is “Of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” - Col. ii. 12. In order rightly to understand this subject, we should inquire into the nature and origin of the two essentially different kinds of faith. That there is a kind of faith, common to intelligent beings, which is essentially different from the faith of the gospel, is clear both from scripture and observation. “Thou believest there is one God; thou doest well, the devils also believe and tremble” - James ii. 19. That devils are susceptible of that kind of conviction that compels them to yield to the force of truth, and believe that of which they are rationally convinced by testimony, is a sufficient demonstration that intelligent beings without spiritual life are capable of conviction, and may be led to believe that there is a God, a heaven and a hell, because they are unable to resist the testimony presented to their minds that such is the case. And because unregenerate men, and even children, are capable of such convictions, many have attempted to prove that genuine faith is a fruit of the natural mind, and a condition of life and salvation. Upon this false conclusion, all the machinery of the present age is brought to bear upon the intellectual powers of men, in order to bring them to believe certain things in regard to God and a future state. From their cradles to their tombs they are taught religion as they are taught earthly things, in the same natural and systematic manner that they are instructed in the arts and sciences of this world. The modern religious inventions, such as infant, Sabbath and theological schools, &c., are all based upon the same false and deceptive theory, and the general motto with arminians is Moral suasion. While we admit that natural men possess intellectual powers of mind sufficient to draw correct and legitimate conclusions from all given principles in nature, and to believe all such things as are, supported by such testimony as they deem sufficient, yet we contend, and by the eternal truth of heaven we prove, that their belief or disbelief in this manner can never change their nature, make one hair white or black, nor bring them one step towards God, holiness or heaven. Whatever this kind of natural faith may be, it certainly, as God is true, is not the faith of God’s elect, is not that faith which is of the operation of God, is not the faith which is the fruit of the Spirit and the gift of God, and is in no wise connected with salvation, or devils possessing it might escape the vengeance of eternal fire.

As every stream must be of the same nature with the fountain whence it flows, so every kind of faith must in nature agree with the source from which it emanates. To trace the origin of natural faith (by which term we include all that the natural man is capable of possessing) to its primeval source, where is its origin? whence does it flow? As unregenerate men and even devils can and do possess it, it must have its origin in something short of grace. Our Lord Jesus has himself declared, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” (John iii. 6,) from which express declaration we prove that all that .a natural man is or can be is of the flesh. All his power and faculties, physical and mental, his soul, his body, and all that pertains to unregenerate man is born of the flesh, and consequently is flesh, and as in this state possessing no power or ability other than that which he possesses as a natural man; and by virtue of his natural birth of the flesh, he can be and is capable of reasoning and forming conclusions from given premises, can and does believe or disbelieve, according to the weight which testimony presented to his understanding may have on his mind, therefore all his belief or disbelief is earthly, sensual, and we may add, in language which God has inspired, devilish. If the arminian’s own statement of the origin or his faith may be relied on, it is of the flesh for all arminians agree that man by nature possesses all power necessary to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that faith is an act of the natural man, that he is endowed by nature with this power, and is required on pain of damnation to exercise it hence, from their own theory, their faith is altogether natural, and precisely of the kind which devils have. Unlike the faith of the gospel, which has God for its author and object, the faith of arminians is communicative, or perhaps we might better say contagious, for it can not only be taught by every man to his neighbor, and every man to his brother, by Sabbath Schools, tracts, &c., but even without the use of such popish inventions the contagion spreads like a pestilence wherever grace does not prevent. Do any accuse us of misrepresenting the popular views of the religionists on the subject of faith? We refer such for a farther confirmation of the correctness of our conclusions to the uniform practice of all the various branches of the anti-christian kingdom of his diabolical majesty. This natural faith is manifested by Catholics when they count their beads or say mass; by their firstborn harlot daughter, in reading prayer, and bringing her carnal offspring by rantism into the pale of what they call their church; by the balance of her brood in various ways, catechisms, six months’ probations or apprenticeship, and by all the different modes by which they urge them into their churches and to subscribe their creeds. Nor are the new order of Baptists exceptions to these examples, for they have sufficiently aped the Catholic mother and her Protestant daughters, and what they have lacked in the sprinkling system of paedobaptists, they have made up by excelling all their arminian brotherhood in the invention of traditions with which to make void the commandments of God. In the doctrine that man possesses sufficient natural abilities to exercise faith, all the various orders of worldly religionists agree, and they regard genuine faith as being no more than that which they can persuade men into by reasoning, coaxing, wooing, beseeching, exciting and captivating.

Nor is it at all strange that they should thus regard faith, when they consider the gospel itself, which is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, only as a commodity which they can monopolize and export or import free from duty or tariff, according to the amount of capital they are able to invest in the enterprise. They talk of getting up revivals of religion, of making converts, of evangelizing the heathen and of converting the world to their faith, in as cool and calculating a manner as though they did not know that Isa. xlv. 22, John vi. 44 and Acts iv. 12 were passages of scripture.

From all that we have written, our readers may perceive that we believe what God our Savior has said, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” - John iii. 3. And that all the excitement that can be produced upon the animal feelings or mental powers of natural men are abortive and vain; and although silly women, aye, and men too, may be captivated, and thousands may be led out of one false notion into another equally absurd by moral suasion, yet, until we find authority in the scriptures to believe that one heresy is more sacred, in the divine estimation, than another, or that one lie is less pernicious and abominable than another, we must maintain our conclusion, that all that emanates from the flesh is carnal, earthly and devilish, and that they that are in the flesh cannot please God. And although man may possess any quantity of humanly devised and humanly communicated faith, still he remains a natural man, a child of wrath, an enemy to God, a despiser of truth, and will assuredly sink clown to the perdition of ungodly men with all his religion and faith, if he be not saved by a method as far superior to any ever taught by man as the heavens are higher than the earth, or as Christ is superior to Adam. That men may be persuaded by argument to abandon some vicious practices, and thereby become better citizens of the world, better husbands, fathers, sons, neighbors, &c., we freely admit, and all this may be done without one spark of grace. But because this may be done, we have no right to represent, as an inducement to such reformation, that such reformation will effect the final destiny of the reformed; for such is not the truth, and such a doctrine would set aside the Savior’s blood and righteousness, as being indispensible to the salvation of a sinner: could we by labor or by art wash out the blackness of an Ethiopian, or change the spots of a leopard, this would not change their natures. The Ethiopian would remain an Ethiopian still, although a white Ethiopian, .and the leopard, though externally differing from his kindred leopards, would not become a lamb. The old pharisees were as busily engaged in their day, in this kind of superficially religionizing, as the modern pharisees now are; and our Lord charged them with being whited sepulchres, and of making clean the outside of the cup and platter, &c. Even if we had the power to regenerate dead sinners, and should put That power in requisition for that purpose, it would not constitute them, so regenerated, the sons of God nor heirs of glory; it would only make them our own sons, and the heirs of ourselves. Those to whom Christ has given power to become the sons of God, are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John i. 13.

Joshua made no distinction between one system of idolatry and another, but gave those children of Israel to whom it seemed evil to serve the true God, their choice between the gods that their fathers served on the other side of he flood and the gods of the Amorites in whose land they dwelt. Joshua xxiv. 15. Not that Joshua did or would countenance idolatry in any way or to any extent, but rather that he would have them know that all was alike, and no god of human invention is preferable to another. The calf which Aaron made of the Egyptian trinkets was no better than the gods which Rachel stole from her father, and the gold and silver lavished on a greedy and insatiable missionary priesthood in this nineteenth century to which the salvation of sinners is ascribed, is no less idolatrous than it would be if it were moulded into the shape of a calf or in any other shape. To ascribe the work of God, such as the regeneration of souls or the preparation of men for the ministry of the gospel, or sustaining them in the work, is as abominable and idolatrous as to make a god in any other shape or of any other material, or to worship it in any other way. We may just as well be Catholics, Mormons or pagans, as to be anything else, if we be not born of God, so far as religion is concerned. “No lie is of the truth,” although ungodly teachers are charged with handling the word of God deceitfully, and of turning the truth of God into a lie.

In distinction from all these views of faith, as held by the popular workmongers of all distinctive names and denominations, the Old school Baptists, (so called, not in reference to any school other than the school of Christ) hold that faith is the gift of God: and that the faith peculiar to the heirs of salvation, is the faith of Jesus Christ; that it is established in the hearts (not heads) of his people, by the operation of God; that it is the fruit of that Spirit by which they are regenerated. And as that which is born of the flesh is flesh, so also that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; and as we derive all our natural powers of body and mind from Adam, so we derive all our spiritual life and action from Christ. As a pure fountain cannot send forth corrupt streams, so neither can a corrupt fountain send forth pure waters. In short, what the Old Fashioned or primitive order of Baptists are, is what all orders of the Arminians oppose and reproach; and so long as the world shall continue to love its own doctrines and men, so long may we, of the old order, expect the New School Baptists and all other workmongrel orders to outvie us in worldly respectability, in numbers, and in worldly influence. It is perfectly in harmony with their faith to make their own converts and ministers, and if they want many or few to suit the quantity to their wishes. But not so with the church of God, she is true to her Head, Husband and Lord; she asks not for nor desires any sons or daughters of whom Christ is not the legitimate Father. She asks not for ornaments, other than those in which Jerusalem is adorned as a brkle for her Husband. And although in this world she has to labor and suffer reproach because she trusts in the living God, yet she esteems the reproaches which are heaped on her as being better than all the honors of the world, or treasures of Egypt.

We have now lying on our table, a sermon by T. G. Keen, before the ministerial meeting of Kentucky, and published by request of that New School body, in which our description of their views on this subject is sustained thus:

“The mind must be penetrated by the force of scriptural truth before a spirit of holiness can be diffused, or a principle of virtuous living implanted. Religious reflections must in the order of nature, precede religious feeling. One of the most predominant feelings of human nature is to overthrow the authority of God, and to stamp with folly and weakness every essential truth.

“There is no affinity between the faith of the gospel and the grosser feelings of the degenerate mind. The spirit of incredulity has been deeply imbedded in our fallen nature, and it is greatly strengthened by habitual culture. And it is an incontestible fact, that important results as the effect of any scheme, are not believed till the abstract cause is established by the most irrefragable proof. This is in a peculiar sense applicable to the reception or rejection of the bible. As well might we dream of some flaming meteor passing through the sky and illuminating the human mind, as to expect the triumph of christianity without its doctrines being fully established by the most conclusive testimony.”

If by the spirit of holiness the Holy Ghost is meant, they deny the power of God to quicken a dead sinner without a preparatory work Performed by the flesh; and if such is not their meaning, it will be hard to interpret such jargon. We understand them to say and mean that we may as well look for some flaming meteor passing through the sky to enlighten dead sinners, as to look for the Holy Ghost to enlighten them without the intervention of those pious occultists to remove the mote, in whose eyes huge beams remain. At antipodes with this sentiment is the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles. See John vi. 63; 1 Cor. ii. 11.

New Vernon, N. Y.,
Jan. 16, 1843.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials – Volume 2
Pages: 134-141