South-hill, Bradford co., Pa., Jan. 31, 1844.
BROTHER BEEBE: – Noticing in a late number of the Signs a Correspondence published, together with some other circumstances, brought fresh to my mind a correspondence which you may publish if you think proper. As a kind Providence gave me an opportunity to attend the session of the Allegany Association last July, at Beach’s Ville, Steuben co., New York, on Saturday, July 8th, 1843, a stranger handed me a note or slip of paper, just as he came past the pulpit, where I was sitting, as afternoon service was commencing; not a word was passed between us, nor ever had been, as I know of. He passed on and took his seat. Supposing it to be some notice or something of that description, I opened it, as it was only doubled together, and not directed to any body. All it contained was,
“For the sake of light and information, as a professed minister of Christ, I would like to ask a number of questions, but a few must suffice.
1st. If sinners cannot repent, cannot believe, until God gives them repentance and faith, on what principle are they damned? And who is to blame for their damnation, if believing is exclusively the work of God?
2nd. When Christ says, preach the gospel to every creature, does he mean preach it only to the church?
3d. If Christ does not need the labor of ministers for the instruction and conversion of sinners, Why should he need their labors for the instruction and building up of converts? Or is Christ only able to commence the work of salvation, and then must call upon poor, puny man to instruct and build up those to whom he has given repentance and faith? These are some of the points on which I should like to have light.”
A. C. DUBOIS.
Beach’s Ville, Steuben co., N. Y., July 17,‘43.
To which I gave the following answer:
Hezekiah West to A. C. Dubois –
Respected Sir: – Being favored through your kindness with a written communication containing questions pertaining to important subjects you have an undoubted right to expect from me, in writing, such communication in reference to the points, as I may suppose would reflect some feeble rays of light thereon; though I should not be able fully to satisfy your mind, since you say you ask “for the sake of light and information.” Admitting you to be an honest inquirer after truth, I rejoice that as God has made all men dependent upon himself, so he has made them in some sort (under himself) dependent on each other; laying them under a kind of mutual obligation to assist each other, by and with such means as he puts within their power to use. And may it ever be yours and mine to endeavor to assist each other, and our fellows, to the utmost of our ability and opportunity, in all the departments of life, wherein we are called to act; communicating to them according to the testimony of God, by the Apostles and prophets.
Hence as you have begun to show kindness to a stranger, a mere worm, in that your questions indicate that you think there is not an agreement between his views of the plan of God for the salvation of men, and his written word; you are herein and hereby solicited, if the present communication should not prove satisfactory to you, to continue your favorable notice, by showing wherein, what herein follows, falls short of giving you all that information, and directing you to that light which you desire. Since you profess to be a minister of Christ, you should be a man of God. And I would refer you to 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Where then is the necessity of the study of heathen mythology, polytheism, and Belle’s Lettres to furnish the man of God, theminister of Christ, to preach the gospel? Do you ask for light? Light is sown for the righteous. Psal. xcvii. 11. Also see Psal. cxix. 105, Thy word is a lamp unto my feeth, a light unto my path. Also lxxxiv. 11, The Lord God is a Sun and Shield, &c. John i. 6-9, There was a man sent from God, whose name was John, the same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light, that was the true Light that lighteth every man that cometh unto the world. David and John bear witness to Christ as theSun, the fountain of light, as the true Light, &c. And more testimony is not necessary to confirm the point. Would you therefore enjoy the light of truth? Pray to the Lord to lift upon you the light of his countenance, that you may enjoy the light of life. Psal. cxii. 4, Unto the upright there ariseth light in darkness. Psal. iv. 18, The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Need I caution you not to walk in the light of the sparks of your own kindling? See Isa. l. 11. But to come to your first question:
“If sinners cannot repent, cannot believe, till God gives them repentance and faith, on what principle are they damned? and who is to blame for their damnation, if believing isexclusively the work of God?” Here appears to be at least two questions, which might be divided into still more. But to attend to them in due form, see 1 Cor. xii. 9, with its connexion; where it is plain thatfaith is a gift of God: in confirmation of which, see Phil. i. 29, For unto you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. Also, John vi. 29, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. What need is there of further testimony on this point? Respecting repentance, see Luke xxiv. 47, And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, &c. Should you ask how it is to be preached in his name? see Acts v. 31, 32: Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. Then the Apostles and the Holy Ghost were and are witnesses that Jesus was exalted to give repentance: and such as dare reject their testimonyhate God. As to faith, genuine gospel faith, Jesus is the Author and Finisher of it. Heb. xii. 2. It is also spoken of (Col. ii. 12) as being of the operation of God. These points being established by the testimony, that faith is the gift of God, and Christ the Author and Finisher of it; and also that repentance is given by Christ, and that it is the work of God that men believe; Upon such premises you ask, On what principle are unbelieving sinners damned?Answer, On the principles of law and justice. Who can think otherwise? Are they not under the law? Does not the law condemn every one that is under it, that continues not in all things which are written therein to do them? Does it not say, the soul that sinneth, it shall die? In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. Are they not condemned already? Has not death long reigned because of sin? Is not the sentence passed? has not execution commenced long since? Paul seems to think their damnation was just. But founded upon yourifs is another question. Who is to blame for sinners being damned?” If any body is to blame for sinners being damned, which is but the execution of the just sentence of the law, I have it yet to learn; that men are to blame, and deserve punishment for sinning, is, I believe, a commonly acknowledged sentiment: but that God is to blame for executing the sentence of his law upon transgressors, I cannot admit. And who shall dare attempt to bring the Sovereign of the universe to a trial for his administration? And how men can be blame-worthy for what a holy God does in the exercise of his holiness, I cannot conceive. The next thing in your communication, called your second question is, “When Christ says,‘Preach the gospel to ever creature, does he mean preach it only to the church?” As it is probable that you and myself not exactly agree with respect to what the gospel is, and as I have no doubt but the Apostles understood their commission, and filled it; and as to what the gospel is may be a matter of further discussion between us, if you please; I shall for the present content myself by supposing that preaching Christ and him crucified, the doctrine of the cross, the order of the house of God; and the exposure of such principles and practices as show the enmity of the carnal mind, whether in open hostility or under the cloak of religion, called anti-chirst, beasts, harlots, &c., was the theme of their preaching: and that they preached to all that heard them, I have no doubt: and as to the effect, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, first chapter, and from the 18th to the 25th verse, shows, That the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto them what are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Hence it is clearly seen, that preaching Christ as the power and wisdom of God, &c., is foolishness to them that perish; and by preaching the gospel to every creature, the distinction of character between the elect and the reprobate is made manifest by its operation: for it comforts and supports the one, while the other stumbles at it. It is then plain, that preaching the gospel is not the power of God to the salvation of any but the elect of God. What you call your third question, reads, “If Christ does not need the labor of ministers for the instruction and conversion of sinners, Why should he need their labors for the instruction and building up of converts? Ir is Christ only able to commence the work of salvation, and then must call upon poor, puny man to instruct and build up those to whom he has given repentance and faith?” Why did you not ask why Christ needed an ass’s colt on one occasion, to ride into Jerusalem, since on no other occasion do we read of his riding? Or whether it was because his muscular powers failed, so that he had not strength to walk as at other times? It would have shows as much of Divine teaching; and it would admit of an answer upon the same principle. That all power in heaven and earth was in his hands, is proved from Matt. xi. 29, and xxviii. 18. And that the government rested upon his shoulder, is declared in Isa. ix. 6. If then the government was upon his shoulder, and all things in his hand, all power his, he certainly can, and will do all his pleasure: which will be to accomplish the unchanging purpose of God, according to the plan as declared in the Old and New Testaments; wherein the work he was to do personally, and what he was to do instrumentally are pointed out, Paul to plant churches, and Apollos to water them, &c. &c.Why he has done this, and why he has not done that, I feel no liberty to inquire, further than is given in the testimony; but say with the poet.
“Not Gabriel asks the reason why,
Nor God the reason gives;
Nor dare the fav’rite angels pray,
Between the folded leaves.”
It is written, (Job xxxiii. 13,) He giveth not account of any of his matters. And Matt. xi. 25, 26, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.
I would also in turn ask you a few questions; to which your answer is earnestly solicited.
1st. If, as the scriptures assert, salvation is by grace, and notof works, nor by works, nor according to our works, How much work must a graceless creature perform to obtain that grace? Please be so kind in your answer as to be particular as to quality, as well as quantity.
2d. If Christ does need the labor of ministers for the instruction and conversion of sinners, How much such labor does he need? Or what proportion do ministers’ labors bear to that which Christ does personally?
3d. If unregenerate men can repent with evangelical repentance before Christ gives it them, and exercise faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, before Christ gives them the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, How long must they live in the exercise of repentance and faith, to become regenerate souls? Whatever answer you may give to these questions, or communication you may please to make, address Hezekiah West, South-hill, Bradford co., Pa.
Yours with respect,
I learned in the neighborhood that A. C. Dubois was a Presbyterian minister, living and preaching in the village. Receiving no further communication from him of any description, I addressed him again, as follows:
South-hill, Bradford co., Pa., Oct. 24, 1843.
Hezekiah West to A. C. Dubois –
My Dear Sir, – More than three and a half months have passed by since our acquaintance commenced, and I begin to fear that it was not so agreeable to you as it was to myself, or as you anticipated. Yet since you introduced yourself to my notice, I thought I had a right to expect more familiarity, and I do not yet despair. If my remarks and answer to your questions were not to your satisfaction, I solicited your reply, and still solicit it. If I had satisfied your mind therein, and you found that we were happily agreed, I expected that you would favor me with a notice of it. Did I expect too much? Were you disappointed that I took notice enough of your questions to attempt in my rough way to reply to them? Or was my matter, or manner, or both, so disgusting that you thought best to treat me with silent contempt? Can it be that a gentleman of your abilities and standing in society, could back out so soon after commencing an attack upon a stranger? Were my questions so difficult to solve, as to discourage you? You may then apply to any friend or brother you please to assist you, only do not keep me too long in suspense. If you wish to ask any more questions, you have a perfect right so to do; and will you allow me to ask as many, and each pay his own postage? And if you ask such as I think unanswerable, I will frankly acknowledge it. Or if they be such as I think I have light upon, I will give it freely. The questions you have asked, and the circumstances attending, was somewhat interesting to my ministering brethren present, and some others. Do you object to my publishing the correspondence between us? If you do, please let me know within three months from the above date, and the reasons for your objecting. A continuance of correspondence in relation to the plan of God for saving sinners, that I may obtain further light upon so important a subject, is still solicited by your fellow citizen.
Signs of the Times.
Volume 12, No. 6.
March 15, 1844