The following is the copy of a Letter from our Brother, Elder Hezekiah West, of Orwell, Pa.
It is immaterial who my Father or Mother were since ‘This proverb shall no more be used. The Father’s have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ Yet the place of my nativity and some of the circumstances of my birth and education may be interesting; as they effect my life, and as others are writing letters to Brother Beebe, who feel perhaps no more interest in the success of his publication than myself, and as it might be said, that mine was not original if I took the beaten track, I have thoughts of giving you a sketch of the circumstances of my life and if you can extract any thing from it that you think is worth communicating to Zion, you are welcome to publish it.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me! The place of my nativity was not the land of Canaan, but the land of steady habits, where men were once obliged to be religious by law, and if they did not like to worship the Beast or his image, nor receive his mark in their foreheads, they must once prostrate themselves to one of the Daughters of _______, that they might enjoy the privilege of being Virgins, the rest of their days. Under such circumstances, I suppose I was born but my parents were not of the rigid order, so I was not brought up under the Saybrook platform, altho’ I was taught some in the Catechism at school, yet as my parents did not believe in it made but little impression on my mind, – my Mother being pious, yet not believing in Predestination, nor that the creature could get religion, quite as easy of themselves, as some tell of gave me such instructions as she was able. I now think, I was then about as religious as some of the Sabbath school folks, are in these days. She taught me that I was wicked, in doing things that I ought not – but God has since taught me that my nature was a fountain of corruption, sending forth its noxious effluvia in every direction; as the Bohon Upas does its poison. I do not know that I ever saw more than one man who professed to believe in a particular definite or atonement, until I became of lawful age and had been a professor of religion six or seven years. If I mistake not he told me that he had been disciplined for embracing heretical sentiments. The doctrine of Eternal, particular, and personal Election, was not very well relished by the greater part of the Ministers, and religious people with whom I was conversant in my youthful days. These points were held up to view, as heinous and uncomely, as a naked skeleton would appear when placed by the side of a beautiful and well dressed Virgin. Receiving in my youth, from those I looked upon as my instructors, such impressions, and scarcely ever hearing any thing but Free-will set up as the turning point, in the salvation of man, I struggled long and hard to find in the Bible, a connection between what I had been taught and what I had experienced and in some sense I labored in vain, for I found it not; yet my searches were not altogether in vain, for I found to my full satisfaction there was none there. But this I found, that God’s free-grace, administered according to his Eternal purpose, was that alone by which poor perishing sinners could be saved, and that it was not by works or righteousness which we had done, nor any system of means, ordained by men, or God, by which his chosen were made the partakers of the Divine Nature any more than it was by a system of means that Lazarus was raised from the dead. – But during the many years (for truly they seemed tedious, being by nature blind, when I first began to see, I only saw, men as trees walking) that I was laboring to find out & to understand the truth. I say in the course of these years I formed an acquaintance with some men that I esteemed much better than myself, and with them I became connected with some Societies (professedly) for benevolent purposes, and as some of these men were considered sklilful Pilots, with them I thout’ to sail, and so I went on board, but judging from the different courses they took, as I read the Chart; that they made some gross mistakes, I grew uneasy, but I did not feel myself capable of being Pilot, concluded to stay on board, submit and sail with them until I could find an opportunity for a passage where they could keep a more direct course. But whether I became sick of some of the company, or the coast they sailed in, or both, this is certain, I became light headed by turns, adn though we were doing well, but in my more sober moments I would complain of bad management and a dirty vessel, but I could not govern, and how to get on shore, was now the question. While thus and being very feeble, I studied the coast more closely, and though clouds and storms attended, they served me for medicine, cooled down my fever, and made me more sober, and when I enjoyed the light of the sun I was the better pleased with it, and I think the Lord has given me more clear and enlarged views of the truth in its beauty, than I had before I commenced my voyage, in the great ship, called “Benevolence.” And now that I have disembarked, and have no wish ever to sail in her again, I have no doubt many of her hands have purer motives than some of her Officers have, and I could wish that they would leave her, for she is certainly polluted. I would not speak against that pure benevolence which flows from God. But benevolent enterprizes, enveloped in popularity, (and which is not manifested by the doctrine of the Cross of Christ,) concentrating all the streams which flow from all the different sprints, to form one powerful current, calculated to its rising to wash all the plains, so as to drown with infamy all who will not unite their efforts with them to evangelize the world, while money (not christian fellowship) entitles men to memberships, and privileges. It is this that looks so much like the holy crusade of old, with earthly Princes, cardinal Priests, and almost every grade of men, and even drunkards, all engaged in their various works, with their money and influence, and their instruments to teach men religion or in some way to help save souls, which they think would otherwise be lost. It is a place of Merchandize, the tables of the money-changers are with them. But I have had the fever so long, although at present convalescent, yet I am very feeble, and probably may never be of much use to Zion. I love to read your paper, and will try to pay you for it. A considerable portion of it I am agreed with. Some of Br. Philo’s ideas, I have not yet learned. I know that it is desirable that an army should be in uniform, and that they should all speak the same things, and that there should be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment – but with the Baptist, as a denomination it is not so; they are
Some for Fuller, and some for Gill,
Some say free grace – but mean free-will,
Some are for Old School – some for new,
While for Christ Jesus, there’s but few.
Yet I am not without hope that there may be some in Pergamos, as well as in Sardis that hold fast his name, and have not denied his faith, even in these days, in which men’s souls are tried. “A remnant according to the election of grace.”
Go on, my Brother, sounding the alarm in the Holy Mountain, “Blow the trumpet in Zion,” let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is right at hand. Cry aloud! spare not! lift up thy voice like a trumpet! and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Israel their sins. Behold! The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, – neither is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear. For Zion’s sake, hold not thy peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake, do not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the Salvation thereof, as a lamp that burneth.
Dear Br., may I have your prayers to God for me, that I may be directed, and enabled to discharge my duties to God, and to my fellow men, and while I remain in the flesh, I will not cease to pray that infinite wisdom may direct your mind, while you guide the quill, and that the God of all grace may dwell in your heart, and warm your bosom with pure benevolence, and so fill your soul with truth and meekness, love and holy fear; with faith unfeigned, and humble reliance on God; that your bitterest foes, and your hottest opposers may have no just occasion to censure you. I am with much esteem,
Orwall, Pa. March 12th, 1833
Signs of The times
Volume 1, No. 12
May 3, 1833