WE have copied from the “Jerseyman” a discussion on the subject of Total Abstinence societies, between our old correspondent “W.” and some anonymous writer, whose articles are signed “Iota.” In addition to the well applied arguments of our friend “W,” we will offer a few remarks on the extravagant assumption of “Iota,” that the modern Total Abstinence society has not only been auxiliary to the church, but also instrumental in making a very important improvement in the regions of glory. This assumption will be found in the closing sentence of his second paragraph, on the middle column of page 108, viz:
“Thus the Temperance cause has been auxiliary to the church, and has been blessed as the instrument of diffusing not only happiness and comfort amongst thousands of wretched families, BUT JOY IN HEAVEN OVER SINNERS CONVERTED TO GOD!!!”
However indefinite and vague “Iota’s” idea of a church may be, (for he is unable to inform “W.” which of all the numerous denominations that claim that name is the church to which he has made allusion and to which these modern humanly invented institutions have been assistants or auxiliaries, and whose approval of them is in his estimation more important than what God has revealed in the scriptures) it is very evident that by the term heaven, as he has used it in distinction from its application to what he denominates the church, he means that heaven where the saints shall ultimately surround the throne of God and worship in his presence forever. Of this heaven Christ has informed us that it was prepared for the sheep at his right hand from the foundation of the world. But “Iota” is at issue with the sovereign Judge of quick and dead upon this point, and thinks heaven now to be undergoing some improvements through the agency of men. If new joys are excited or produced in heaven by the operations of newly invented societies, these new joys must certainly cause a change in the condition of glorified spirits, and the change of condition must be for the better or for the worse; if for the better, heaven was not perfect without them; if otherwise, heaven is imperfect with them. “Iota” is welcome to either horn of the dilemma.
If, as “Iota” supposes, the joys of the saints in glory are regulated by the works and inventions of men, he is willing to ascribe to men a much greater power and control over heaven than he is willing to allow God to have over the affairs of earth. For he asserts that the church (with all the grace given to her) has failed to secure that amount of good which is now effected by the society for which he pleads. We suppose he intends, by the church, the church of God; but he is mistaken in regard to what constitutes the church of God, and applies the term to self-organized bodies, which are assisted by such auxiliaries as Total Abstinence societies. But the church of God leans only on the arm of her Beloved. The Lord alone is her help and the strength of her salvation. In his inability to comprehend the church of God, “Iota” is not alone, for it is written, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Should it ever be the happy lot of “Iota” to experience this gracious work, he will see the kingdom, and know that it is not composed of flesh and blood, of meats and drinks, but righteousness and peace and joy, (not in what men are doing) in the Holy Ghost.
To the demands of “W.” for scriptural authority to sustain the institution, “Iota” appeals to established opinions and sanction of the christian church, and that of the wise and good for many years; and the sweeping charges that the popular benevolent institutions of the day are schemes and inventions of men, rather than injunctions of the Redeemer, are of such a nature as to forbid a reply from “Iota.” But what does “Iota” discover in “W’s.” rejection of any authority short of the scriptures, for the establishment of religious institutions which contemplate the essential improvement of heaven and earth, that so much shocks him as to forbid that he should reply? Perhaps “Iota” is unaccustomed to asking for, or giving scriptural precepts and examples for religious practices; but even in that case, if he can lay his finger on any portion of the divine record showing that the benevolent institutions of the day, as he calls them, are the injunctions of the Redeemers ought he not for the information of others who have read the discussion to do so! If these institutions are enjoined by the Redeemer, such injunctions must be found among his laws in the scriptures; and if not enjoined in the scriptures, they are the inventions of men or devils. Iota is forbidden to reply, much in the manner in which some of his ancient brotherhood were forbidden or unable to reply to the question whether the baptism of John was from heaven or of men. They could not tell without exposing their own guilt. If they said, Of heaven, they were convicted of opposition to an ordinance of God; but if they said, Of men, they feared the people: therefore they said, as “Iota” virtually says, We cannot tell. Who is so stupid as to suppose for one moment that “Iota” would slip off in this pitiful manner if it was in his power to bring the least countenance from the bible in support of his favorite idols?
“Iota” charges “W.” with leaving the grounds on which they joined issue: but this is a mere quibble; its utter destitution of justice will be seen by all who read the discussion. But if “Iota” really wishes publicly to discuss the question whether a professed christian can consistently with that profession join what is called a “Temperance” society, and will abide the decision of the word of God, let him appoint time and place, and he shall not want for a man to take the negative.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
July 15, 1843
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 293 – 296