Alexandria, Va., June 17, 1874.
Dear Brother Beebe: – We have reason to be thankful to God for abounding mercies. As I am in my natural disposition rather of an unhappy temperament, it cannot be expected that I should enjoy life like some others who in their temperament are more lively and cheerful. Yet I am more highly favored than I used to be in the days of my plantation life, though I retain the same unfortunate disposition. The almost constant occupation of my time and services in traveling, preaching, visiting the sick, performing marriages, attending burial services, with my little pecuniary affairs, altogether considered, keep me in a state of almost perpetual motion.
This Scripture, I sometimes think, is the only support I have to my mind in its suffering state: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”- 2 Corinthians iv, 10,11. I am experiencing almost constantly the struggle of two opposing elements or antagonizing powers in myself, namely, Adam and Christ; or in other words, the old man and the new man, the flesh and the Spirit, the outward man and the inward man. The weaker must finally yield to the stronger to make salvation complete to all the chosen of God.
The following Scripture, including the two preceding verses, has been on my mind at times for quite awhile: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”- 1 Corinthians xi, 19. Some dissensions which are manifest in some sections of the country among Old School Baptists, have caused me to reflect much upon the foregoing Scripture. Its practical workings are distinctly manifest. I think I have seen it clearly of late. There are heresies which cannot stand the scorching, burning ordeal of revealed truth. I need not write of worldly religionists, who, though they claim the name of Christians, do not possess the characteristics of Christians. I will write of Baptists, and in this particular I do not mean Missionary or New School Baptists, for they are as far off from Gospel doctrine and order as any people; but under the name of Old School Baptists, there are those who will every time cling tenaciously to traditions, creeds and isms, rather than be approved by the Word of inspiration. The Scriptures must be fulfilled in this particular as well as in others. Fortunately, the churches I serve are free at present from heresies, so far as I am able to judge. Strictly speaking, there are but a very small remnant who stand approved on close, discriminating, Scriptural principles.
In the Signs of the Times of June fifteenth there is a communication published over the signature of “A Subscriber,” which tells the truth respecting Sunday schools, mission, abolition, and sympathetic spirits, as we have known and believed it for many years. Why I refer particularly to that communication is, I consider it very timely just at this period. The shocking strides of the Man of Sin in our day threaten to sweep everything before him; and some of the saints are so liable to be deceived by the craftiness and hypocritical workings of wolves in sheep clothing, that it becomes the bounden duty of God’s ministers to cry aloud and spare not. [Bold characters by editor for emphasis. We consider that an expression of his ability to see what was occurring all around him even this early in the downgrade. Like Smoot, Jeremiah Taylor Moore, and brethren in the West and Indiana, the Lord kept their eyes opened wide, and gave them a sensitivity to the danger about to plunge Predestinarian Old School Baptists into the American spiritual Dark Ages.]
I have thought sometimes I would write something for the Enterprise, but as often fail as I think of it. I sometimes feel that I shall never write any more for any paper, not even the SIGNS; yet I know nothing about it. My feelings are changeable, and are no criterion of judgment. When I feel the burden of the Word of the Lord, I have to preach or write. This I cannot control.
I have just received your letter of the fifteenth instant. I am glad to hear from you again, though you write as low down as I ever knew you to write, if not more so. I read your letter at the post office, and it produced a feeling of deep sympathetic grief and sorrow. Our long acquaintance, the kindred feelings existing between us, and the expression of your exercises in your letter, altogether considered, had considerable effect upon my mind, and still continues. I will finish this letter to-morrow if providentially permitted.
I certainly do not think that Zechariah xi, 17 applies to you or God’s ministers. I do not think you are an idle shepherd. I think you are terribly beset with a strong temptation, - a fiery trial. Read Hebrews ii, 18, [“For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted”] Again, Hebrews iv, 15,16; also James I, 2-3,12. God’s people must follow Christ in His temptations. In this way they are purified, and made white, and tried. We must be partakers of Christ’s sufferings, as well as of the consolation that aboundeth by Christ. We must suffer with Christ, that we may be also glorified together with Him.
It seems from the manner in which you write that the coldness of death exists at Holly Spring, and that it is the peace of death; rather than the effect of love; or in other words, that you fear such is the case. You do not say positively that it is so. On this point I know not as I can write anything. I do not think it can be the peace of death in the sense of utter destitution of spiritual or immortal life, neither do I think you mean that death; but a state of worldly or carnal mindedness, which is death. Where this death exists, there is a total indifference in the right direction in the way of conversation on heavenly things, hearing the Word, &c. In this particular I know of no remedy but to both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God. There is a death sometimes where there is no particular carnal mindedness, only a deep sense of the vanity of all worldly things, having or feeling the sentence or answer of death in ourselves not to trust in ourselves, but in God, &c. This particular state of death I feel much of my time. The effect of love, in a Gospel sense, is to warm, to animate, to enliven, &c. “Did not our hearts burn within us?” &c. “While I was musing, the fire burned; then spake I with my tongue.” Love exists in this latter state of death, but not in lively exercise. Death and love appear in a state of counterpoise in the believer; it seems so sometimes.
You speak of your preaching being in word only, &c. In this you may be mistaken. You may be looking for too much from God or the brethren; I am not able to say for a certainty. You say, “Yet it is for the hurt of my people I am hurt.” You ought to consider yourself highly favored to stand on a level with the dear old prophet Jeremiah. This was once a comfort to me, more than thirty years ago. You speak of a sense of desolation. I think in some localities there is much of it existing in the churches, arising from a narrowminded, penurious covetousness. They are ready to spend money for foolish and vain things, but too poor for the benefit of the church. You say, “Pity me;” again, “Pray for me.” In these particulars you have the sincere expression of my heart. We are br others in tribulation; yet our tribulations, afflictions and sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us and the saints.
Remember me to all in Christ Jesus. Love to all.
Yours, JOSEPH L. PURINGTON.