South Hill, Bradford Co., Pa., Jan. 1, 1840.
MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: – There is such a pressure in the money market in the country, that I could not obtain a sufficient quantum of the needful, to send you a $5 bill, until since I commenced my last tout; and I hope to send this by the first mail that goes out since my return.
And as I must write to you, I think of sending you a small fragment, of which I would send more, if I had time to spare from other calls, so that I could dress it fit to appear in public. And even now, what I do send, if you think it is too dirty, or too ragged, or dressed too coarse to send abroad, you may burn it, if you think best. Such as it is I send, sparing to call names. So take it this way – A brother enquires of Mr. B. Do men and means save sinners on the same principle as they raise wheat? Mr. B. Answers. “Now my brother, you will find this very figure repeatedly used in the scriptures, to illustrate using means to convert sinners. Look at the parable of the sower, and Paul’s language, I have planted, Apollos watered, &c. The word of God is compared to seed, preaching it to sowing seed. Now I say where this seed is not sowed, there can be no harvest, you say just so about wheat. Did you ever see a wheat-field growing where no seed had been sowed? Never! Nor did you ever see or hear of a harvest of souls where the seed of the kingdom had not been sown. True, you say no man can make wheat grow. Just so I say in the other case, no man can make christians. But he can sow the seed, and if God bless, there will be a crop: it is precisely so in raising wheat, where the gospel is not preached, souls are not converted. The more wheat you sow, the greater harvest you gather; the more you dispense the word of God, the more souls are converted.” Now I think that Mr. B. ought to be very careful of the precious seed, and look well where he sows it, in order to have his theory hold good. He ought to be careful and break up the fallow ground; and not sow among thorns, For that seed that fell among thorns, as well as that on stony places, and by the way side produced no fruit.
Admitting Mr. B’s. theory, it must be very wrong to waste the precious seed by sending preachers to the heathen, until they know that the Lord has taken away the stoney heart, and has given them a heart of flesh; unless they first send men qualified to prepare their hearts. For I presume he never saw a profitable crop of wheat grow, sown where the ground was not prepared. To believe that men can prepare the heart, is to disbelieve the word of God; which says, The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. God’s blessing the seed won, is not preparing the ground. And as it would be folly to expect a crop of wheat sown in an uncultivated forest, on a rock, or by the way-side. So according to Mr. B’s, theory of raising wheat, and converting sinners; it is the height of folly to preach the word of the Lord to men whose hearts are not prepared to receive it. He says no man can make christians. But he can sow the seed, and if God bless there will be a crop. To read this as it seems he would be understood, preachers must go and preach to them that are not christians; i. e. sow the seed before they are christians, &c., if God bless his preaching, a harvest of christians will be made, and gathered into the church. Now I should think from the parable, (Matt. xiii. 3-8) that the profitable preaching was to the good ground hearers, the honest hearts, – hearts made honest by being prepared by the Lord. The Lord knows, and so do wise men, that there will be no harvest where the ground is not prepared to receive the seed. It is not therefore the sense of that parable, that men, when, and where they preach, should either fit the ground, or gather a harvest of souls, i. e. convert sinners: but to show the different effect, on the prepared, and unprepared ground. The one brought forth fruit, the others none. The fruit of the preaching, or the seed sown, was not the conversion of sinners; but it was the effect of the word in the hearts of them that were converted, (prepared by the Lord,) which was manifest in their obedience to him. It would however, seem that Mr. B. by perverting, and blending two parables thought that he had made out, that raising wheat, and converting sinners was much alike; that men and means could do as much towards the one as the other. But had he noticed the difference between the two parables, he might have known better than thus to have exposed himself. Having given my views of one, I will of the other also.
In that of the tares of the field, &c.; the good seed, are the children of the kingdom: he that sowed them is the Son of man, (Christ.) Is there no difference between the Son of man’s sowing the good seed, (the children of the kingdom) or ministers now-a-days preaching to mixed assemblies, and claiming to convert men by their preaching? Or are they in the place of Christ, to sow the good seed? &c. Is it not perfectly plain that the two parables were designed to convey two distinct ideas; one the work and power of Christ, and the opposition of the devil and his children; the other the different effects of preaching the word, on the different characters, or conditions of men. But Mr. B. quotes Paul’s saying, I have planted, Apollos watered, &c. Paul planted churches, that is, gathered the children of the kingdom together into churches: presented to, and instructed them in the principles of the doctrine of Christ; and as spiritual confederacy. Apollos with his affectionate and consolatory gift, watered (comforted and refreshed) them, as plants are refreshed, by being watered by the hand of the gardener. It is absurd to talk of watering unconverted sinners, to make them grow to be christians.
Once more, Mr. B. says, “The twelve Apostles were instrumental of converting more than Paul would have been alone. Send twelve bibles among the heathen, and they will (God blessing them) do more good than one alone.” If he means by the ambiguous term conversion, what it would seem to mean in the connexion it occupies in his essay. I deny that either, or all of the Apostles ever converted any body. The work of regeneration, is along the work of the HOLY SPIRIT, not the work of men; either Apostles, or any body else. But according to Mr. B’s. rule, 24 Apostles would have been instrumental of converting twice as many as the twelve were; and so we might continue to increase according to the popular mission calculation. But, I would ask, if Jesus had chosen 1000 Apostles, would any, who were not ordained to eternal life have believed? To calculate the number of converts, according to the number of preachers, or number of sermons preached, as Mr. B. has done, and upon the same principle as the common calculation for raising wheat, is in effect to charge infinite wisdom with folly, and tacitly saying, they are more wise and benevolent than the Almighty. In short, it falls but little short of downright blasphemy; and shows the folly of proud conceited worms. Mr. b. Confesses that he does “Not know how a christian feels that is opposed to the bible and missionary cause.” Perhaps Saul. Who was once a missionary, and made a profitable business of it, and was afterwards converted by the power of Christ; not at a protracted meeting, not on a modern anxious bench, nor by a modern scholastic preacher; nor in agreement with the modern mission doctrine: for surely he was not seeking to have his sins forgiven, when going to Damascus to persecute the saints: but was met by the Lord, and converted from his mission system to trust in Christ, to submit to Christ, to preach Christ, and not missionism, begging for money to save them that the blood and grace of Christ would not save without it. I say, perhaps if Mr. B. would consult Saul, who afterwards was called Paul, and would attentively, and behaveingly, receive his instruction on the subject, and embrace the same spirit, follow the same practice, and endure the same sufferings for opposing the present popular pharisaic mission course, that Paul endured from his former missionary friends – he might learn something of that of which he is now ignorant with all his love. As to the present missionary cause, from the best historians with which I have been favored: it appears to me to have descended from that ancient society of which Saul was once a member through the MOTHER OF HARLOTS, and it still shows the same unclean disposition to mingle with men of any, and of every description to get money. Mr. B. “Cannot but consider this opposition a species of infidelity more detrimental, a thousand times, to the cause of Christ, than the infidelity of Tom Pane.”
If to trust in Christ, and in in men, nor money to save his people, if to follow Christ, and not anxious-bench works, if to love Christ well enough to go at his bidding, and not wait to be sent by a mission board, and to trust him not for my support, not looking to any society for my pay; if to feel that attachment to Christ, the bible, the cause, and people of God, to be willing to forsake all, and follow him in opposition to popular opinion, and a popular religion; and to endeavor to walk in the institutions of the gospel, boldly proclaiming the name of the Lord, in the midst of the institutions of men, in the midst of the popular flood of error that the serpent has cast out of his mouth, in the midst of war with all the power of darkness; I say, if this is infidelity, Lord increase it in my soul: but to close.
In order to be a consistent disciple according to Mr. B., a man must be doing something that may afford him a source of enjoyment when he stands before the throne of God, contemplating what he has done to aid the Savior in advancing his kingdom: and this must be done by the most of men by proxy, or giving their money to support theological schools to qualify men to preach; and then continue to give to support them to preach to save the heathen. This tells the story, men can do as much towards saving or converting sinners, as they can towards raising wheat: men clear the ground, and fit it for the seed, then sow, &c. God gives rain, and sunshine, with suitable seasons, and then if the wheat does not blast, the crop is proportionate to the quantity of the ground occupied, and the seed sown. He that is negligent and sows but little, gets but little: but he that is industrious, sows a large field, and gets a great crop. Glory to the industrious man; he, to change the figure and apply it according to Mr. B’s. rule, has labored much, has sowed much seed, and will reap a large crop of souls by his using the means; while the poor lazy creature, has had, or might have had just as much rain and sunshine as the other, if he had only been as industrious. But now he must be disgraced for his negligence: Oh no! not now! but when he stands and sees “The redeemed millions coming up around the throne,” converted by his zealous brother; and himself having converted only a few, instead of millions must not share in that great source of enjoyment. My soul sickens at such theology; and I dismiss the subject to breath a purer air.
Yours in need of daily supplies of grace,
Signs of the Times
Volume 8, No. 2.
January 15, 1840