As I have nothing more ready to send for publication in the Signs, and if I had I know not but it would be asking more than my share to ask to have it published, since I have written so much lately; I thought as I had so much room to spare on my sheet, I would send for your perusal or examination, a few lines, or a copy of them that I have addressed to David Benedict, P. M., Pawtucket, R. I. If you find a very corrupt sentiment in it, expressed as being the tenet of the Old School, please be so kind as to notify me by letter as soon as possibly convenient.
I commenced and finished my letter to him thus:
South-hill, Bradford co., Pa., April 10, 1844.
Hezekiah West to David Benedict.
HON. SIR: – Having seen some things that have flowed from your pen, and having had cogitations thereon for some time, having now a little leisure, as I have received naught from you for some time, not knowing but some communication from you might have failed, and you begin to think that I was neglecting you again, I thought I would drop you a few lines, which you may read if you please. I do not wish, however, to infringe upon your precious time, and task you to answer it, unless you wish so to do. If that should be your pleasure, I think it would not displease me. Therefore, suffer an unpolished rustic, in simplicity to tell you some of his ruminations, without giving offence, as he assures you none is intended. He only would in plainness and friendship present a few things for your consideration. Since you enjoy the liberty to publish that you think the difference so small between some old School, and some called New School, that it all may be put in a “nut shell,” and since you have challenged outright to the cogsominal, allow an unworthy one to speak on behalf of what he thinks is truth in the case; and in thy patience possess thou thy soul, for it may seem unpolished.
It may be that you have forgotten that I sometime back informed you that the name Old School was given to us by our opponents, and that it was used by us in reference to the school of Christ. Did you mean to challenge our right to the name of being taught in that school? I cannot well believe that you would profess to be a predestinarian, and sentence the main body of the Baptists which are contending for that sentiment, as those that were not taught in the school of Christ, unless I have it from yourself. If you did not mean to challenge our right to our profession, as having been taught of Christ in his school, in distinction from the school of Moses, what did you mean? Perhaps I am wrong; it might be our exclusive right you meant to challenge. But this we do not claim. However, mere names I regard as of small consequence, it istruth I want and to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Suffer me then to give you a summary in five points, which as I view, separates at the present time. I think the following are fundamental differences between the Old and New School folks.
1st. One important point which contains the germs of many others, is an abstract opinion respecting theology itself.*
The Old School believe it is perfect in its fulness in the mind of God, or its emanation therefrom; and as it is communicated to men, is so complete that it cannot be improved by them as a science capable of the least alteration or amendment which could make it easier, better, or more useful to, or among them. And that every attempt thereat made by man, is, and ought to be considered by all, as an attempt to adulterate it. The New School, on the contrary, believe that theology is an advancing, improvable science: that the formallies of the christian faith are too antiquated for this enlightened age.
2d. Another subject of difference is, the effect of Adam’s sin and fall.
The Old School believe, that the sin of Adam is righteously charged, or imputed to his posterity, as they were in the mass when he was formed, when corrupted, and when he sinned, in, and with him. That being separated by generation makes no difference as to possessing the same principle of corruption, or the propriety of the charge. The New School believe that the sin of Adam is not charged, or imputed to his posterity; that they did not sin with him when he fell. Though they admit that by his fall it is made certain, that (in some incomprehensible manner) they each and all of them will sin.
3d. Another subject of difference is one which no human being, whether philosopher or christian, can contemplate with indifference. It is the power of God over our intellectual nature.
The Old School believe that he is Almighty, not only over our physical, but our mental or intellectual constitution; and that by a single operation according to his will he can change the heart of the worst of men, and cause them to love him. The New School have sought to limit Omnipotence, and say, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.” They believe that a man may withstand the day of grace, resist the power of God, and be eternally miserable, against the Divine will; and the only means by which sinners are changed from hating to loving God, is the power of moral suasion; or by the inciting exhibition of motives.
5th. Another topic of great difference is, the subject of regeneration, or the plan of operation by which the heart is changed.
The Old School believe that it is a sovereign act of Omnipotence, which by grace instantaneously communicates the principle of spiritual or Divine life to them that are dead in sins; that men have naturally no more power or opportunity to choose or resist in the case, than their bodies will have when the trumpet shall sound, and they be raised from their graves. The New School believe that since the atonement of Christ, the sinner is competent to his own regeneration, and that the process is gradual.
Thus I have given five points of difference between Old and New School, according to my views of them. I do not suppose that all called New School are now prepared to allow all that I have charged to them. I would fain hope there are some in their ranks whose hearts are much better than their heads, whose hearts love the truth, tho’ their heads do not discover it. But of this I feel confident, that every one whose heart is engaged in the principles of the popular religious institutions of our day, will, when he can, and does analyze his system, find that I have not charged him too much, or for any thing that he has not had; and unless reigning grace prevent, will manifest the same disposition that Jezebel did toward the Lord’s prophets. And though he might trace the principles of his school back to the first missionary that entered Eden, and taught rebellion there, like Cain he would bring the fruit of the ground, cultivated by his own hand, as an offering to the Lord, and reject the blood of Christ, the doctrine of imputation, and the sovereign right of God to do what he will with his own.
Now, respected sir, without putting on any screws, or opposing the liberty of conscience, suffer me to ask, (though you need not answer unless you wish,) Can a man be honest before God, in the sight of man, or at the bars of his own conscience, and say by his walk that he does fellowship sentiments and practices as opposite in his own view as I view those of the Old and New School to be? I am candid if I know what candor is, when I say that there is no more real agreement between the legitimate principles of the two religious systems, than there is between Christ and Belial. No more gospel fellowship between those who set understandingly among the missionists, and the anties, in heart, than there was between the Judaizing teachers and Paul, who pronounced the curse of God upon them. And I think that no nut that I am acquainted with, has a shell sufficiently large, to hold peaceably, without bursting, differences so pregnant with repugnance. I shall not question but there may be many, some on both sides, that, could they see their own systems anyalized, would change their standing. I believe that some of God’s children (captives) are in Babylon, or he would not say, Come out of her, &c. I know not but you are one of them. Perhaps I have written more than you wish already; so I close for the present.
Yours with sentiments of esteem,
* I used the word theology, because it is a common word, and did not know what word to substitute for it that would be so well understood.
Signs of the Times.
Volume 12, No. 11.
June 1, 1844