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THE letter of brother B. Burritt, on page 13, requires a remark or two from us. We would not willingly justify, in ourself, or in our correspondents, an improper course. If ours has been such as to lead our brethren to suppose us ambitious for the honor of being “the keenest blackguard in America,” we sincerely regret that we should have been left to act in such manner as to justify such a conclusion. Sensible we are of our inability to conduct the publication of the “Signs of the Times” in such a manner as not to betray human frailty. None of our subscribers can more sensibly feel, or more deeply regret, that weakness and pollution belongs to us; yet coming as it does from a brother, we cannot help thinking the rebuke rather severe. When we commenced our labors as publisher of this sheet, we flattered ourself we were not actuated by ambition. Had we felt ambitious, it really appeared to us there was a greater prospect for worldly applause among the popular New School Baptists than among the despised few who remained on the Lord’s side. A “bad spirit” truly must have misguided us, if our labors have only secured for us the persecution of enemies, and from our friends the unenviable distinction of “blackguard.” Well, we are glad that we have some brethren who can write under the influence of a good spirit; if such smite us it shall not break our bones; it shall be an excellent oil. If by a letter preacher our brother means, what the scriptures evidently do, a minister or scribe of the law, we do not know that our labors will come altogether under the classification of letter preaching; for we sometimes try to preach Christ Jesus, and him crucified; but even in this we find a stumbling-block for the Jews, and folly for the Greeks. As to a cold, lifeless manner of preaching, we are acquainted with a few individuals who, like the editor of the “Signs of the Times,” cannot pretend to so much unction and heavenly dew as some have boasted of in latter times. For ourself, it is only once in a while, when Jesus deigns to smile on us, that we feel all those lively and pleasant feelings which are so desirable; often we have to preach when our soul is like a wilderness, instead of being like a watered garden. Would brother Burritt have us to stop preaching on this account? As to speaking the truth in a lifeless manner, we have hitherto believed that God’s words were spirit and life; sure we are that we have never given them any additional life by our speaking or preaching them; if the truth itself has no life in it for the saints, but depends on the lively frame or manner of the preacher, we have been mistaken. Nor have we ever learned how to preach the truth without giving offence. With us the offence of the cross has not yet ceased; and if we please men we are not the servant of God.

In regard to the discernment of spirits, we have been led to the conclusion referred to by our brother, that as no lie is of the truth, so the truth cometh not of a bad spirit or a devil; for our Lord has said he (the devil) was a liar from the beginning, and there is no truth in him. We have only read of one bad spirit - “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience” - this must be the devil; and sensible as we are of our imperfection, we are not willing to think we are altogether left at the mercy of his satanic influence, nor that such am unhallowed influence would betray itself by publishing truth.

It may not belong to us to defend the spirit in which some of our correspondents have written; but for ourself we will say that had we been aware that all communications published in our paper which were calculated to give offence were written in a bad spirit; or in other words, that their writers had a devil, we should have suppressed nearly all that we have published. The letter of brother Saunders was not written without provocation; there were some unguarded expressions in it which he requested us to correct; but being unavoidably called away, when his letter went to press we failed to comply with his request.

Sorry as we should be to choose from our list of patrons one for whom we entertain so much esteem as we do for brother Burritt, yet, if he can discover in us a bad spirit, and a desire to excel in blackguardism, and feeling, as he does, scruples of conscience in supporting us, we must leave him to act according to his own judgment on the subject. As we have hitherto aimed to set forth truth and oppose error, and in doing so to bear the reproach necessarily connected with the offence of the cross, so we feel a disposition still to move onward. Meantime we wish brother Burritt and all other brethren to watch us, and in christian faithfulness correct us when they discover that we are wrong, or when they think that we are wrong.

January 15, 1840.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 578 – 580