GNOSTICISM.

BROTHER JEWETT: - As you seem disposed to call me out to say something on the subject of Gnosticism, as you with propriety call it, I will give a few general remarks concerning it.

A strong evidence to me that the church of Christ, at this time, is not only surrounded with Babylonish confusion, but is about to find herself captive in Babylon, is the great propensity manifest by our brethren to refuse the waters of Shiloh that go softly, and to rejoice in something new or strange, something which has the velocity of human imagination in it. Whilst Judah was content to drink the waters of Shiloh which flowed from the foot of Mount Zion, they were kept of course from being far scattered from their home. But when they must take other and untried waters, God for this discontent, brought upon them the waters of the river, strong and many. See Isa.8:6,8. So of spiritual Judah, if they would be content with the simple testimony of Scriptural revelation, made plain in their experience, they would be of one heart, and speak the same things. But whilst we must have human expositions on the one hand, or on the other, allow imagination to stretch itself to bring in something more full and more rapid, than what we find in the Scriptures, we shall be confused in our views, and scattered in our feelings; and God will bring upon us the strong waters of Babylon and cause them to go over and reach even to the neck. Ah, they may reach even to the neck, but their proud waves must stop there; Zion’s Head cannot be brought under; whilst this is her case, though she may be greatly chilled, there is no danger of her drowning.

If Old School Baptists could agree to appoint themselves a Pope to imagine for them, they might not be so much scattered, though in a strange land. If we could unitedly give this honor to Doctor Gill, or to the Faculty of any theological School, or to yourself, Brother Jewett, or to brethren Beebe or Newport in your editorial capacities, and receive your dictation as to what we are to receive as truth, there might be union of sentiment among us. But so long as while some wish to adhere to just what the Scriptures declare, others wish Dr. Gill to be taken as the standard, and others again wish to imagine for themselves, and to sweep away every ancient landmark by the boldness of their fancy, we must continue to be scattered until the great Shepherd shall be pleased to bring us back, and to lead us by the side of the still waters, and to make us to lie down in the green pastures of his grace. The time I think cannot be far distant, when those of us who remain, will be found – not floating down – but sitting beside the rivers of Babylon, one by this, and another by that, weeping in remembrance of Zion and its peace, with our harps hung upon the willows, saying, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.”

I was somewhat surprised to find our excellent and gifted Brother Newport, in the Predestinarian Baptist, coming to the conclusion that of all the opinions he had heard concerning the origin of the devil, the one which represents him as the eternal opposite to God, is to him the most rational and reasonable. As to the rationality of the thing I have nothing to say; Satan and sin occupy too conspicuous parts in the revelation which God has given, for me to admit them as subjects of rational enquiry, instead of revelation. The reasonableness of Brother Newport’s conclusion is not very apparent. To me it is quite unreasonable for one who believes in the perfection of divine revelation, to leave that revelation and like the Gnostics of old go to the Magi or ancient worshippers of fire to learn the origin and nature of a being with whose acts the revelation of God is so full. But there it is, men want something more full, more overflowing, on the origin of the devil, than God has given in the Scriptures, and human imagination must be resorted to. The Scriptures on the origin of the devil, as on many other points, go softly, instead of presenting a set treatise in biographical form of his parentage, birth, &c., they give us here a little and there a little, leaving the honest enquirer after truth to find out what God has declared on the subject, by comparing Scripture with Scripture. And we may rest assured that, wherein God has withholden, neither the ancient Magi, nor modern Philosophers can give us the truth on the subject, so directly a subject of revelation as this.

The preceding remarks I had written, previous to receiving the 18th number of the SIGNS, in which Brother Beebe proposes to publish in pamphlet form, a “Scriptural Refutation of the Two Seed Doctrine.” I shall now omit the remarks I had intended on that subject. I will go on to remark that the origin of the devil, so far as it is viewed merely in relation to his existence, is a subject not worth contending for. But when men will, in advancing their opinions on that point, publish that which reflects on the character of God, or the truth of Divine Revelation, no lover of God’s truth can, I think, consistently hold his peace from bearing testimony against it. If one opinion is attempted to be pulled down, merely to build up another equally imaginary, it is labor poorly spent. When the sentiment is advanced among the Old School Baptists that the devil was made such of God, I feel bound to bear testimony against it, because it represents sin and holiness to be both on a footing as to their origin, making both to proceed directly from God, contrary to that revelation which God has given of himself, as a God of infinite holiness and purity, as “Righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” Psal.145:17. On the other hand, in representing the devil as a self-existent being, he is set up as a competitor with God for the sovereignty of the universe; each alike existing in the universe by his own independent power, each so far as I can conceive, might, on this principle, have an equal claim to the sovereignty. Besides it is giving to the devil a claim to the name Jehovah, which is expressive of self-existence, when the Scriptures declare that God’s name alone is Jehovah. Psal.33:18. Beside this, it strikes a fatal blow at the doctrine of predestination, making the whole purpose of God going before, concerning the plan of redemption, and the events which should take place in the world, a matter of entire contingency. For if the devil exists by his own pleasure and independent of God, then his acts would be alike independent of God and according to his own and not God’s counsel. It is true, Elder Parker to obviate this, lays down the position, that the devil by coming into God’s dominions comes under his law and was subject to his government. But were we to admit the consistency of this idea, it would not obviate the difficulty in the way of God’s having beforehand and certain purpose as to the government of the world. It, from the nature of things, is impossible, that God could have known beforehand, with certainty, that the devil would enter the garden of Eden, unless he from the beginning so existed in dependence on God, as to give God a governing control over all his movements; and without this certain knowledge that the devil would enter the garden and tempt the woman, it is gross absurdity to suppose, that God could with certainty have predetermined those events which have transpired in the world consequent upon sin. Brother Newport’s Declaration of Faith, published in the 1st number of the Predestinarian Baptist, is as good as any I ever read; and how it is, he can thus believe in the predestinating purpose of God, and yet believe that the devil, who has had so great an agency in all the events of the world, existed independent of God and therefore entirely without his control, until he appeared in the garden, is to me strange. I wish he would explain this point for us, and let us know how far back, according to his and Elder Parker’s views of the existence of the devil, God’s predestinating purpose can be extended. Elder Parker I am told has published an answer in the Predestinarian Baptist to my remarks on his Third Dose. He may in that have offered some explanation on these points, as I have never seen it, for although most of the Numbers have been sent me by the kindness of some friend, the Number containing that, with some others, has never reached me.

One writer in that paper has challenged me to show, that angels were ever created, others have represented me as adopting Milton’s poetic representation of the fall of Satan from heaven. I will therefore I think ere long give my views on these points, if you will publish them. And I will try not to give speculation for Scripture declaration.

I remain Yours, &c., S. TROTT.
Oct.12, 1842.