The second article called for, as we are informed by our beloved brother Freeman, is in volume seventeen, pages 181-183. This is a long reply of the venerable Elder Trott to brethren at Fort Mountain, Virginia, which was published without note for comment by us at that time. As Elder Trott, and many, if not all, the Fort Mountain brethren who were engaged in that discussion, have been called the way by death, we deem it inexpedient to revive their controversy or to disturb their graves. We pass to the next in order, which is replied made by us to a letter of Elder John Clark, in which has will be seen, we distinctly said, “We are not prepared to endorse what brother Trott has said, although with him we do believe that Christ was made a quickening Spirit.”
In yielding to the request of brethren, in republishing our reply two Elder Clark, we have no disposition to revive or agitate the controversy with him. For about thirty years past we have carefully avoided the mention of his name in the SIGNS, leaving him to accomplish his threat, that unless we complied with his terms, the SIGNS OF THE TIMES should itself be discontinued; and to do in his own way. Nor do we publish these articles with any design to persist in the use of any words or phrases use by us, then which we’re liable to be misunderstood. We most freely admit our liability to err, and therefore have constantly urged our readers to compare carefully all we published with the scriptures, and receive only what the scripture sustain.
We have been charged repeatedly with Arianism, two-seedism and other heresies, which we have distinctly denied. Our accusers have referred to passages in the SIGNS to prove these heresies upon us; to which we have replied that such passages from our writings have been garbled, and not taken in their legitimate connection with the manifest tenor of the articles from which they purported to have been taken. To garble, according to Webster, is “To pick out such parts of as may serve a purpose; to mutilate; to correct.” Arianism is generally understood to be a denial of the eternal Deity, or supreme and uncreated Godhead of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now let our readers examine the passages picked out of these reproduced articles, and compare them with the articles from which they have been extracted and picked out, in which we have in the most pointed manner declared we did not use the garbled terms in the sense which they attached to them, and then decide if what has been quoted of what we have said has been a fair in on this presentation of our manifest meaning and intention. Compare what was said of Christ, as the relative and official Head of the church and life of his body, as being constituted, made or created, the foundation and source of all life to his saints, with what we said in the next paragraph in these words, “If brother Clark and other brethren have so understood us, or any who have written on the subject, as to fear that we were others were losing sight of the absolute Godhead of Jesus Christ, their jealousy is commendable; but we are certain that those who have written have felt as tenacious for the supreme glory of God our Savior as any of our brethren can be. * * * * We do a surety believed that he (Christ) is God, and worship him and rejoice in him as God,” &c. Again, we say, if the attempt to fasten on us the charge of making Christ only a created being, when we have soulfully declare that he is himself the self-existent God, by whom all things are and were created, is not a mutilation and perversion of what we declared to be our meaning an understanding in the use of the words used by us, then we have unjustly charged our accusers with garbling.
The word create in our English language, as defined by Webster in his unabridged dictionary, is defined in his second application thus: “To effect by the agency and under the laws of causation; to be the occasion of; to produce.” In his third application he says, “To invest with a new form of office, or character; to constitute; to appoint; to make.” The idiom of the English language justifies its application to Psalm lxxxix. 27: “Also I will make him my first born, higher than the Kings of the earth.” “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” – Psalm ii. 6. “Even Jesus, made a High Priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec.” – Heb. vi. 20. “For the law make if man high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was sense the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated forevermore.” – Heb. vii. 28. None of these terms are or can be applied to the abstract Deity of Christ, nor applied to him abstractly from his Mediatorial relations, for as God, nothing can be added two or diminished from him; but of the increase of his government and peace, as our blessed Mediator, there shall be no end, upon the throne of David his Father, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even for ever. – Isa. ix. 7.
Although the use of the word is sanctioned by Webster, and frequently used in the scriptures in a similar sense, as, “I form the light, and I create darkness,” darkness is caused only by withdrawing or withholding light. It is not making something out of nothing, or that never existed before. – Isa. xlv. 7. “I create a new heaven and in new earth;” “for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” – Isa. lxv. 17, 18. Both Jerusalem and her people were already in existence; but she with their people were to be blessed with these additional favors. “Create in me a clean heart,” was the importuning prayer of David. – Psa. ii. 10. Not in the way the heavens and earth were created from nonentity, for he already had a heart; but it needed to be cleansed. The manner of this creation which he invoked was, “Purge me with hysop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Now we repeat, although the word, in the sense in which we used it, is sanctioned by Webster, and what is far more important, by the scriptures, we do not feel inclined to persist in the use of it. Certainly, if we had apprehended that any of our brethren or readers would have inferred that we held the monstrous belief that Christ had no higher than a created existence, we would not have used it. When we publish the article in which that word occurred, we were issuing about seven thousand copies of the SIGNS, which are read by perhaps 10 times that number of Old School Baptists, who have discovered no Arianism in it. Since that time it has taken Elder Clark, who had threatened to annihilate the SIGNS, 30 years to make the impression, with the aid of a printing press and as many as he could enlist to cooperate with him, that we are an Arian Two-seeder; and the amount of his success in his efforts, others can judge for themselves. We presume the Two-seedism, of which we are accused, is that which was advocated by the late Elder Daniel Parker, which we have never sanctioned, and in refutation of which we published a pamphlet many years ago. The bible speaks of various kinds of seed: a holy seed, a godly seed, a righteous seed, and also of the seed of evil doers, a corruptible and an incorruptible seed, seeds of animate and of inanimate things; but on none of those seeds are we aware that we hold any views differing from the views of our brethren.
Deeply regreting our inability to express in more unmistakable language powerful, unwavering and undying faith in the eternal power, majesty and refulgent glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Word that was with God, and as the Word that was God, God over all, blessed forevermore, the true God and eternal life, that he is one and identical with the Father, and one an identical also with his body, the church, and with all our hope for heaven and happiness resting exclusively on his Godhead and his complete, finished and perfect Mediatorial work, we desire to worship and adore him as our God, obey him as our King, serve him as our Lord and Master, confide in him as the great High Priest who holds his office, not by the law of a carnal commandment, but by the power of an endless life, by which she is able to save all who come unto God by him, seeing that he ever liveth to make intercession for them. Yea,
“In all the characters he bears,
And all the forms of love he wears,
Exalted on his throne,
In loftiest songs of sweetest praise
We would, to everlasting days,
Make all his glories known.”
The following is our reply to Elder Clark, first published And December 1, 1849, in volume 17, pages 181-183.
From a firm conviction of our mind that brother Clark had misapprehended the views of our self and of some of our correspondents, in relation to some of the things of which he complains, as existing among the Old School Baptists, and consequently that his repudiation of views which he imputes to them, would be regarded as an attempt to demolish that which has only an imaginary existence among Old School Baptists, we were led to defer into publication, intending as soon as we could command at leisure, to correspond privately with him, in the hope that we might be able to disabuse his mind on the subjects of all. By letter subsequently received, brother Clark urges the publication as a matter of justice to himself and many others, who, he informs us, have entertained the same or similar views with himself. We are too well acquainted with brother Clark, to doubt his sincerity are the purity of his motives, or to think incapable of wishing to create an unprofitable excitement. We feel no disposition to deny him what he claims as a right at our hands; but while we publish his communication he will bear with us, while we injustice to the Old School Baptists generally, and in defence of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, particularly, attempt to show that many of the things of which he complains have never been advocated by Old School Baptists through the columns of this paper.
First. No writer in the SIGNS has ever claimed for his own productions that they should be regarded in any different light from that which they freely accord to all other writers, both ancient and modern; so far as they are sustained by the word of God, they are more than the opinions of man; but as far is the only express opinions, as such, they are like all other writings of the kind, to be esteemed only as the opinions of man. All the writings of uninspired man, whether in ancient or modern times, must necessarily set forth the opinions of their offers, and their correctness or incorrectness must be determined by a higher standard than themselves. Every sentiment, whether expressed by ancient our modern man, whether in the pulpit or at the fire-side, whether published in Gill’s Commentary or the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, is true or false, as far as relates to spiritual things, as it is sustained or condemned by the scriptures. But we must make a distinction between the opinions of man, and the infallible word of divine inspiration. We admit of no standard writers for the church of God, excepting such as have written by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost. A gray-headed heir is none of the better for its antiquity, nor is a newly discovered truth the worse because of its novelty to us.
The query of brother Clark, whether the SIGNS has not been productive of as much harm as benefit, we shall leave our readers to decide; but we know not why our views on any point of doctrine, are not as good and edifying when given through the SIGNS in answer to an inquiring brother or sister, as though we were to express the same views from the pulpit, nor can we see why they should not be tested by the same rule in both cases. If our readers would regard our views and he either case, as a standard for their faith, they would be guilty of substituting the opinions of a man, in place of the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. It is not enough for us as christians to know that we have the opinions of great and good man of many generations; we require to know that these opinions are sustained by a “Thus saith the Lord.”
Second. In the six specifications of “new things,” which brother Clark says, “have been found among us, and some of which have been advocated in the SIGNS,” there are some specifications which have not yet been developed to our knowledge among the Old School Baptists of our acquaintance, much less have they been advocated in the SIGNS. The doctrine of the first specification, asserting the self-existence, independence and progenitive properties of Satan, has never been held by any, who were recognized a consistent Old School Baptists, in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES. Nor did we ever before hear of any among us, we’ll than the sentiment of the second specification, nor do we think that sentiment has ever been advanced by any recognized Baptist of our order.
The third specification is somewhat complicated. We know of none who deny that the non-elect are under law to God, and under condemnation and wrath, by the law of God under which they were created in Adam, and against which they have all transgressed; that there are many among us who do not profess to be informed, as to different degrees of punishment awaiting the non-elect in the world to come. Having in behalf of our brethren who have been contributors to our columns, plead “Not guilty,” to three out of the six specifications, we pass to notice the remaining three specifications; and on two of them we freely admit there has been some unpleasant description.
The fourth specification is undoubtedly the most important of all; but the statement is by no means a fair version of the sentiments held by any writer in the SIGNS, unless we have all together miss apprehended such writer. That which comes two nearest it of any thing that is appeared in the SIGNS, is perhaps the reply of brother Trott, to the brethren about the Fort Mountain, on the first page of No. 16, of the present volume. We’re not prepared to endorse what brother Trott has there said, although, with him we do believe that Christ was made a quickening spirit, as the Head of that life and immortality which was given us in him before the world began; and that as Adam was made a living soul, so Christ was me to quickening Spirit. But still it has been, and still is our view of the subject, that as eight is God who is assured us into being by communicating to us by generation than natural life which gave us in Adam, so it is God, who by the Holy Ghost communicates to us that spiritual life which she gave us in Christ before the world began. The immortality of the saints is not a mere emanation from a created being, nor was our natural life such an emanation from man merely; God gave us that life which we derive through Adam; he created it in him, but we receive it from God, through Adam. And our spiritual life proceeds to us from God through Christ.
“He gave us a life in Christ his Son,
Above for He spread the starry sky.”
We do believe that Christ, as the fountain and source of all life to as saints, was so constituted, made or created by God; for these are scripture terms, and must have meaning. And it is in this sense we understand that “He only hath immortality.” From or through him only flows life to us; for that life was in his Son; but this life was so given us in him as to make us in him the sons and children of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But we also believe that in him as truly and fully dwells all the Godhead bodily, as we believe that the church of God is fully and completely in him embodied. We agree with brother Trott, that the “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, by which we are made free from a law of sin and death, has reference to the power of immortality given us in Christ, and not to the person of the Holy Ghost.” But when it is written, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek,” &c., We understand that the Holy Ghost is intended. Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; but unto Christ, as the anointed of the Father, the Holy Ghost was given without measure. And Isaiah, personating the anointed Savior, declares that this anointing was a qualification for his mediatorial work, “binding up of the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn,” &c. We have understood the passage, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth,” to relate to the Holy Ghost; but we understand that the Holy Ghost quickens by communicating the life of Christ to the members of his mystical body. How far we may in these views agree with the views of brother Clark, and how far (if any) we may differ from the views of brother Trott, we’re not able to say; but it is with great deference to the views of both these brethren that we have expressed our own. And so far as they are our views they are opinions of man, and should be so regarded, and tested by the scriptures; and so far as they are sustained by that standard, they are the revelation of God. Whether they have ever been entertained or expressed by mortals before or not, can neither make them true nor faults. If true, the word of God will sustain them; if untrue, that word will condemn them. The subject is infinite and we are finite; our views at best are imperfect, and all we can know or understand of God, or the things of his spirit, is and must be by the revelation of the Spirit.
If brother Clark and other brethren have so understood us, or any who have written on the subject, as to fear that we were others were losing sight of the absolute Godhead of Jesus Christ, their jealousy is commendable; but we are certain that those who have written, have felt as tenacious for the supreme glory of God our Savior as any of our brethren can be. And although brother Clark May think that we ascribe a triplex character to Christ, which the scriptures do not warrant, we for ourself must say, if to hold that he is God and Man, and Mediator between God and man, involves such of you, we certainly hold it. We do assuredly believe that he is God, and worship and rejoice in him as God. We believe that he took on him the seed of Abraham, was made of a woman, was put to death in the flesh, and was quickened by the Spirit, and we believe that he is the Head of his church, the life and immortality of all the sons of God; nor can we think that brother Clark wishes to exclude either of these characters from him. We may differ in some of our views, and we may differ still more in our manner of expressing them, but in our need of just such a “God, Man and Mediator,” we cannot differ.
The fifth and sixth negative specifications are quite two metaphysical for our limited understanding. That the everlasting love of God to his people in Christ, is the cause of their being all to be drawn with loving-kindness two God, and of their loving him in return, is simple bible truth; but that love is what constitutes us the objects of God’s love, or are having our life and immortality given us in Christ, is the ground of our relationship, and that relationship the ground of love, is to be settled as the word in Spirit of God doth teach. Wide brethren who have witnessed and enjoyed that love of God shed abroad in their hearts, causing them to love God supremely, and to love one another with a pure heart fervently, should fall out by the way, and dispute on these nice distinctions, we cannot explain. It is certainly a matter of astonishment the God has loved his people and all; and a far more weighty question with us, whether we be partakers of that love, then any of the questions involved in the controversy.
We were not aware that there was any diversity of sentiment among Old School Baptists on the subject of the sixth and last specification; or that any Old School Baptists contend that faith is in any sense the act of the creature. That its power is felt by the children of God, that it moves them the action, and is developed in them by their works, none, we presume, will deny. But we have learned and from the word, that faith is itself a fruit of the Spirit; that is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. It is not simply the act of believing, (if believing be an act), but it is the power by which we are enabled to perceive the evidence of things not seen, that evidence on which conviction is set home to the mind, and our believing is the consequence which follows. We, for ourself, can see no more propriety in calling the faith of Christ an act of either the old or the new man, then in calling the grace of God the act of those who receive it. Believers do believe, it is true; but they are constrained to believe by the power of the faith of the operation of God. But we desire to make known new issue with our brethren on this point.
Elder Gilbert Beebe,
Middletown, N. Y.
Signs of the Times,
Volume 48, No. 12
June 15, 1880.