Near Lexington, Ky., Jan. 4, 1859.
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - While visiting the associations last spring, summer and fall, many brethren and friends requested me after my return home to write for insertion in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES the details of my journey. When I finished my tour the circumstances surrounding me seemed to present no favorable opportunity of writing, and it was therefore postponed. As I kept no diary, it is too late now to refer to minute matters connected with my travels.
I think I left home on the 4th day of May, and from that time until the latter part of September I was at home only about nine days, and traveled nearly or quite five thousand miles. I first paid my friends and relatives in Western Virginia a visit, and had several pleasant meetings with them. From there I went to the city of Washington, and had the pleasure of an acquaintance with our highly esteemed brother, William J. Purington, and was very agreeably entertained by him and his very interesting family, and also by brother and sister Towles, remained several days, and had very agreeable meetings with the brethren of the church there. Leaving the city in company with a number of the brethren and sisters, we proceeded to the city of Baltimore, and found a hospitable home with our friend Dr. Thorne. From Baltimore we proceeded to the Baltimore Association, held with the church at Black Rock, Maryland. Here I had the pleasure of my first acquaintance with brother R. C. Leachman, of Virginia, and found him truly to be a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. The meeting was well attended, both with speakers and hearers, and was really a refreshing season. From there we returned to the city, and brother Slater and myself remained several days, and had very agreeable meetings and visits with the church and friends there. But I must not attempt to give a particular account of all the meetings I attended during my journey. I will just remark that I visited in course the Baltimore, Delaware, Delaware River and Warwick Associations, the Northern Pennsylvania Old School meeting, the Chemung Association, and the Old School meeting of Western New York, in the states of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. The White Water, Lebanon, Conn's Creek and Licking, in Indiana and Kentucky.
Those meetings were all largely attended with many attentive hearers, and many able ministers of the New Testament preached to them the gospel of the grace of God. I formed many new and interesting acquaintances with ministers, brethren and friends, and saw very many of my former acquaintances, all of whose kindness and liberality impress my mind with a sense of gratitude and thankfulness to our heavenly Father and dear friends long to be remembered by me. But the most pleasant part of my tale is yet to be told. In attending those meetings and many intermediate ones, where I had the unspeakable pleasure of hearing the ministering brethren from the east, west, north and south, and with but one small exception, I do not recollect that there was one single conflicting sentiment delivered worthy of notice.
I have been an unworthy member of the Old School Baptist Church for about twenty-eight years, and do not believe there has been a time within that period when the church presented a more unbroken front, a more stable and impregnable phalanx, a more strictly harmonious unity of sentiment, than was exhibited at those meetings. The howlings and misrepresentations of some few that lately went out from us, because they were not of us, to the contrary notwithstanding. This latter, however, should not cost the saints a moment's trouble, for it was said by the voice of inspiration, that of our own selves (number or company) men should arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. What is more perverse than for one to misrepresent the views of another for the purpose of deceiving the hearts of the simple, alienating the friends of the traduced, and thereby drawing away disciples after the traducer, to strengthen or add numbers to his party, as has been the custom of some who have gone from us within a few years past? But such deceivers shall be made manifest in due time, and the Lord will cause their wrath to praise him, and result in the good of his chosen, "for the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
While crossing the Hudson River, on our way from the city of New York to the Warwick Association, I had an introduction to those able ministers of the New Testament, Elders Wm. Quint, of Maine, and Leonard Cox, of Massachusetts. Their preaching at that meeting proved a source of comfort that will not soon be forgotten by me. They touched upon a point (particularly the former) that had been vehemently urged against us in the west - the means doctrine - and met it so effectually with the same texts and arguments that we were so often driven into in that heated controversy, that it caused me to rejoice to find we had such sturdy friends and able advocates in the far northeast, who were strangers to us in the flesh. Those brethren did not learn those sentiments from us in the west, nor we from them. It therefore proved to me that there was a secret power operating upon the entire household of faith, unseen by mortal eyes, unheard by uncircumcised ears, and unfelt by hearts untouched by the vitalizing Spirit of God; and that therefore all the Lord's children are taught of him, and have the mind of Christ.
At the Old School meeting of Northern Pennsylvania, I met other brethren in the ministry with whom I had not been acquainted before, namely, brethren Bolch and Donaldson. I had not the pleasure of hearing brother Bolch preach, he being at home, but his house afforded us an agreeable lodging during the greater part of the time we remained in the vicinity - brother Conklin, of New Jersey, being with me, and I consider brother Bolch a thoroughgoing Old School Baptist. Brother Donaldson's preaching was warm, interesting, and interspersed with a commendable use of the sword of the Spirit. In this neighborhood some of our calumniators had been industriously engaged in misrepresenting (publicly) our views. A large and respectable congregation was in attendance, and it was expressed from an intelligent source that it had been reported through that neighborhood that the Old School Baptists were denying the Godhead of Christ, but that they found it not to be the case. Thus we witnessed the truth of the ancient prophecy, - "Thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places." Brother Conklin appeared to be fully equipped for the emergency.
I shall not here attempt to give a list of the names of all the ministering brethren that I met with at the different meetings I attended, for they are mostly known to the Old School Baptists generally, through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES and otherwise; but I think I can safely say that I conversed with and heard at least fifty of those faithful witnesses who testify the gospel of the grace of God. In recounting the immutable truth, the precious promises, the wholesome lessons of instruction and messages of consolation that I heard proclaimed at those meetings by those faithful servants of the Most High, I have been impressed with the beauty of the expression of the prophet - although I feel unfit, unqualified and unworthy in every way to be numbered with them. "How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord, shall bring again Zion." - Isa. lii. 7-9 and Rom. x. 15. Go outside of the Old School Baptist Church, and I defy the world of professed churches, with all their theological training, catechizing and drilling, to produce as many servants to preach as many sermons, and exhibit as little discrepancy, as was portrayed on those occasions.
These were men possessing passions and faculties like other men; some learned, and some illiterate; some wise, and some, considered by carnal professors very unwise; some rich, and some very poor; some weak, and some strong; some in one part of our wide-spread country, and some in another. But however they may differ in their natural relations as to their passions, faculties, qualifications, worldly wisdom, circumstances as to this world's goods, strength of mind or location, they speak the same thing, they lift up the voice together, they see eye to eye; and not only in some hackneyed sentences and men-taught phraseology, but in doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, they prove that they have had a thorough furnishing from the oracles of God, and that they are led by the unerring Spirit of the Lord into the deep things of God, and (to the natural man) impenetrable mysteries of godliness. The BIBLE, the whole bible, is their text-book, and with that before their eyes, and the living Spirit of Light in their hearts to illumine their minds and unfold to them the mysteries of revelation, they may bid defiance to the criticisms and rage of men, and stand unabashed before the very gates of hell. But, my dear brethren in the ministry, remember that yours is a high and holy calling - a weighty responsibility rests upon us. Whatever opposition we may meet with from the world, the flesh or the devil, we are to keep back nothing that is profitable to the saints; we have continual need of the whole armor of God; we are not to give place to error, no, not for an hour; but to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. We are to wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. But on the other hand, we are to avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain among brethren. It is a nice point, and requires unceasing watchfulness to maintain a proper medium in these matters. We are to exercise all long-suffering toward our offending brethren, but to meet with promptness and faithfulness the deceiver who would disseminate false doctrine, or sow the seed of discord among brethren.
My dear brethren and sisters all, you are not to expect too much from your preachers, however you may esteem them for the work's sake. Remember, they are but men, and imperfect ones, too. They carry about them a body of sin and death. Give heed to what they say, and practice what they inculcate while they can give you a "Thus saith the Lord," but, no further. Every step we take beyond the limits of God's revelation, will likely prove disastrous to ourselves, and result in difficulties to our brethren. Then, dear brethren, read your Bibles for yourselves; it is noble indeed to search the scriptures daily, to see whether the things you hear be so. But after all, your preachers may preach with the tongues of angels, and you may read until your eyes are dim, but all this will not suffice in the absence of love.
"Knowledge, alas! 'tis all in vain,
And all in vain our fear;
Our stubborn sins will fight and reign,
If love be absent there."
Then, "Let love be without dissimulation." Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another. Love is the forerunner of peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It is the effectual cord that successfully draws our wandering feet into the paths of obedience, and leads us into the elysian fields of peace. It effectually drives from the bosoms of the subjects of grace those hateful demons, envies, jealousies, hatred, wrath, strife, seditions, &c., and fills the mind with opposite and heavenly principles. It gives the most infallible and abiding testimonials of our relation to God our heavenly Father, our trust in the shed blood of the Redeemer, and of our right to the tree of life, as well as our title to the inheritance of the saints in light. For, "Whosoever loveth is born of God."
" 'Tis love that makes our cheerful feet,
In swift obedience move;
The devils know and tremble, too,
But Satan cannot love."
Whatever external forms, ordinances or ceremonies the church may exhibit, without this internal garnishing it will be awfully deficient. The midst of the chariot that King Solomon made for the daughters of Jerusalem was said to be paved with love. But says one, The love of many waxes cold, and therefore our harps are hung upon the willows. True to the letter; but, brethren, although the winter winds may howl upon us, let us not despair; though our devotional ardor be chilled and blighted, let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is. 'Tis winter now, literally, and we therefore are the more particular to keep within doors. It certainly is poor policy for the Lord's family to absent themselves from their Father's house because it is cold. Nay, let us crowd around his altar; he dwelleth in Zion, and he only can warm us. David could once say, O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermanites from the hill Mizar. Those were cold regions. It is not best that we should have all summer and no winter, all light and no darkness. When it is his pleasure, and best for us,
"He calls the warmer breeze to blow,
And bids the spring return;
He sends his word and melts the snow,
The fields no longer mourn."
"He maketh darkness and it is night, and all the beasts of the forest creep forth." Said he, "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil, I the Lord do all these things." Certainly it is all right if he does it. "All for the lifting up of Jesus on high," all for the good of his chosen. Whenever it is necessary for the displaying of his own glory, and for the good of his children, he can soon open the way and attune our hearts to sing, "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land." Then can we take sweet counsel together, and walk to the house of God in company. But it is only the effulgent rays that emanate from the Sun of Righteousness that can brighten our pathway. The cords of his love alone are sufficient to draw us effectually and sweetly onward in the paths of peace, joy and righteousness. The divine and spiritual blessings treasured up in our glorious Mediator alone can cause our hearts to burn within us, and enable us to feast abundantly upon the rich provisions of his house. Under the hallowing effects of these spiritual gifts we exclaim, "Draw us, we will run after thee. He hath brought me into his chamber; we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine." The house of God is a lovely place for us now. We can sing with the poet:
"I love her gates, I love the road,
The church adorned with grace,
Stands like a palace built for God,
To show his milder face."
My brethren and sisters, until it shall please our glorious SUN to bless us with the reflection of these divine rays, may we trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon our God.
Your brother and servant,
J. F. JOHNSON.