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For the Signs of the Times


BROTHER BEEBE: – In the DOCTRINAL ADVOCATE for June 1839, there is a letter from Elder James Osbourn to the Editor, containing some remarks which I wish to bring to the notice of our Western Old School Brethren. Elder Osbourn, after noticing his book, which professes to be an exposure of missionism in the great valley of the Mississippi, refers to errors of a most pernicious kind as existing in that country, and then says, “I shall venture to say that the great darkness and the odious errors now alluded to, are to be found and there too I found them, among men and churches professing orthodoxy, and the true Christian faith. But forsooth orthodoxy and Old Schoolism are terms which stand but for little, etc. Hence a man may be a full grown Quaker under the unmeaning term, as it is now mostly used, of orthodoxy; or a gross heretic of the Sabellian kind under the abstruse and new fangled term of Old Schoolism. And in short, thus it is with the people now referred to in the far West. They indeed greatly pride themselves in what is called orthodoxy and Old Schoolism, and yet they literally hiss at and make common sport of a TRINITY OF PERSONS IN THE ETERNAL GODHEAD, and insultingly call the divine Father, PA, and the Holy Ghost a TOOL. And hence under this orthodoxy and Old Schoolism we clearly see heterodoxy and downright blasphemy, etc.”

I think there must be some mistake in this matter. But mistake or not, the thing has gone out, through what is recognized as an Old School periodical, as an indiscriminate charge against our Western brethren, for the New School party to rejoice in. If the above charge is true, I do not blame Elder Osbourn for pronouncing it blasphemy. Not that I am disposed to consider it blasphemous to deny that the Three, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost are in any sense three Gods, or that they are three distinct persons, or that they blaspheme who dissent from the Nicene Creed, or from my creed concerning the divine Three, in which the One God has revealed himself, providing that either of the Three is not degraded. But when we consider that Father, is one of the names by which God has been pleased to declare himself, as expressive of a relation which, he, the Father sustains in the economy of salvation, as he is declared to be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ says to his disciples, “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God;” I say when we consider these things, we must conclude that no person having a becoming reverence for God, whatever may be his views of the doctrine of the Trinity, can trifle with or make sport of this name and relation in which God has revealed himself. Neither can we conceive that any such person would either deridingly or considerately speak of him as a tool of whom Christ thus speaks, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of Truth, etc.” John 14:16-17. And again, “But the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, etc.” I hope therefore that some of our Old School Brethren of the West will set this matter right; if it is a wrong charge which Elder Osbourn has made, that they will clear it up; or if any do hold in contempt the names and relations, Father and Holy Ghost, I say not, as declared in the Athanasian Creed, but as declared in the Scriptures; I desire that they may be made manifest; and be no longer recognized as of us. If this charge had come from our avowed enemies it might well be passed unnoticed; but coming from the quarter it has, I do think it calls for some attention.

May the Lord enable all who profess to be of the Old School stand, to believe, speak, and act, consistently therewith.

Yours, etc.
July 1, 1839.


BROTHER BEEBE: – At the same time I received the 15th number of the SIGNS, containing my call to our western Old School brethren, to vindicate themselves from the charge preferred against them by Elder Osbourn in the DOCTRINAL ADVOCATE for June, I received the number of the ADVOCATE for July {No. 1, Vol. 3,} containing another communication of Elder Osbourn, in which he enlarges upon the charge against the Old School Baptists of the West. This communication is addressed to a clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Denomination; and so {I find,} was the other; hence I mistook in saying that it was addressed to the editor of the ADVOCATE. In an extract of a letter from brother I. T. Saunders, which he gives in this latter communication, is manifested what I anticipated was the mistake in Elder Osbourn’s former communication; that is, that instead of representing, through ridicule, the Father as PA, and the Holy Ghost as a TOOL, brother Saunders makes use of these expressions to illustrate what he understands to be Elder Osbourn’s system of the Trinity. However, it was not a mistake in Elder Osbourn; for he evidently, as manifested in this latter communication, considers his system of Three Divine Persons in the Godhead, to be the only true doctrine of the Trinity; and a peremptory denial that there are three divine persons in the Godhead he considers as constituting infidelity. And the reason why any do not attach the same vast magnitude to his system of the Trinity as himself and others do, he says, “Is evidently owing to the serious darkness of theirs, interwoven with the whole system of salvation, and with the whole covenant of grace, and with the whole life of faith, and the triumphs of a Christian.” Elder Osbourn, I confess here hits me, and it may be correctly; for I certainly have a great deal of darkness to mourn over; but certain it is, that while I consider the doctrine that God essentially exists as Three and One, of the highest importance, yet the system that will make the Three to be three distinct persons, and only to be expressed by the term persons, I do not consider in a light that would justify me in pronouncing as infidels all who do not admit the correctness of the Athanasian explanation of the modus of God’s existing as Three by the special phrase of three distinct persons, the one person begetting, the second being begotten, and the third being breathed forth by the other two.

How Elder Osbourn may be right or wrong in his system of explaining the Trinity I will not here attempt to decide, nor what are the sentiments concerning the Trinity of brother Saunders and the hundreds of Old School Baptists in the West, whom Elder Osbourn pronounces Sabellians, I will not say.

My object in writing this is to show that Elder Osbourn has himself explained what I had wished explained; namely, in what sense it was that our Western brethren represented the Father as PA, and the Holy Ghost as a TOOL; that is, not as they are declared in the Scriptures, but as these brethren understood Elder Osbourn to represent them. Hence I recall my request for these brethren to give an explanation. However, brother Saunders, as he is personally pointed out can do as he pleases in speaking for himself.

Centerville, Fairfax Co., Va.,
July 5, 1839.