VIEWS ON JUSTIFICATION DEFENDED

Brother Beebe: – I much regret that my thoughts on Justification have been so much misunderstood, as they evidently have been, by several worthy brethren.

I cannot account for this so great misapprehension of what I advanced on this subject, but upon the ground that these brethren have in their early experience, as I did, drank in from the writings of men or the preaching they heard, the notion of eternal justification, along with the doctrine of salvation by grace, and had both thus blended together in their connection of the plan of salvation; the one their experience told them was true, and they therefore did not doubt the truth of the other. Hence when they found me objecting to the notion of the eternity of the act of justification, although I admitted all that many of them contend for – its existence in purpose – they felt as though I was striking a blow at the whole system of salvation by grace, and they therefore had not patience to examine candidly what I did write. As however brother Pitcher has proposed certain queries involving some of his objections to my views, and others have also communicated their objections, I feel it my duty to meet those objections, as I desire that mine should be met, that is, by a fair examination of them, so far as I am capable, and the removing of them so far as the scriptures appear to warrant it. But previous to coming to brother Pitcher’s queries, I wish to notice certain ideas which seem included in the observation, which in substance has been made by several, namely: of regret or surprise that Brother Beebe should have admitted my “thoughts concerning justification” into the SIGNS. This remark might have originated either from the idea that my communication was a departure from Old School principles, or that it tended to do hurt by producing divisions among the brethren, or that it was calculated to weaken our cause, and occasion our opposers to rejoice. Feeling confident as I do, that my views are supported both by the scriptures, and by experience, I think there is not so much danger of their injuring the lambs, as there is of setting the old sheep to butting.

First: The idea of a departure from Old School principles. Brother Beebe certainly stands pledged that the SIGNS should be devoted exclusively to the Old School Baptist cause, and I am confident he has no disposition to forfeits that pledge. But this term as defined by Brother Beebe in the SIGNS, and by the brethren meeting at Black Rock, when it was adopted to designate our views and stand, has a meaning different from that in which it has been sometimes used; as when those who adhered to Dr. Gill’s system, have been called old school in distinction from those who embraced Fuller’s gospel. The sense in which it was adopted at Black Rock, and in which we use it, passing by all human schools, points out the fact that we profess to belong only to the school of Christ, and to submit alone to what He has taught in the scripture, in matters of religion. It indeed has a bearing towards the ancient Baptists, in reference to the prominent trait in their character that in accordance with their professing to receive the scriptures as the only rule of their faith and practice, they required a “Thus saith the Lord,” for what they believed and practiced as religion. Were it not thus, were our Old School brethren, in the stand we took at Black Rock, pledged to any particular system taught by men, I would be willing to be cast out as evil among you, - the New School would then have good ground for calling it Black Rockism, for it would be but one among the many isms into which the religious world is divided.

In my first attempt to preach, I was admonished by a female friend, to be cautious, never to have to say “Alas Master! for it was borrowed;” and before this, on a particular occasion, the expression of Paul had been applied to me with some weight, namely: “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” Gal. l:16. The impressions arising from these two circumstances, have in some measure, followed me thus far through life, and I wish them not effaced, for I feel more and more their importance. If I were to give myself up to depend on, and be led by men, in religion, I might as well take Fuller for my master, as Gill; and Arminius or Socinus, as Calvin; for as a system that is only learned of men, will be of little use in reference to salvation; it would therefore be good policy to choose that which is most popular. If however, we speak of the merit of systems, in reference to their comparative consistency with the scriptures, I should prefer Calvin’s to that of Arminius or Socinus and Gill’s, by far, to that of Fuller. I was much pleased with an anecdote which I read somewhere not long since, of a boy and a priest; the priest was exhorting the boy to come to confession, offering to admit him for a small sum. The boy enquired, Do you confess? 0 yes, said the priest. To whom? To the bishop. Do you have to pay? Yes, a large sum. Does the bishop confess? Yes, to the Pope. Does he pay? Yes, roundly. Does the Pope confess? Yes, to whom? To Jesus Christ. And does he have to pay? 0 no, Christ pardons freely. Then {says the boy} I believe I will in future make confession only to Christ, that being the safest as well as the cheapest. So I think, if we must first try the systems of men by the scriptures, before we decide which we will take as our guide, we had better, as the safest way, take the scriptures only as our guide. I have seen so much evil resulting from those who preach from books, etc., who are in a habit of borrowing their ideas and illustrations of scripture from men, that I wish not to fall into the practice myself, nor to have my brethren do it. To notice but one of the evils to which I refer, we have all felt the disappointment of certain persons falling away, whom we once esteemed sound brethren. Who were they? As to preachers, they were Gillites, or some other ites; they preached Gill, not Christ, any farther than they preached Him through Gill’s view of Him. Show me the man who preaches sound doctrine as he has been taught by the Holy Ghost from the scriptures, and I will show you the one who will stand the test of the world’s persecution or its flatteries.

But I do not wish it to be understand from these remarks, that I am opposed to the reading of human authors. I only wish them read as the productions of fallible men, and that we should be guarded against receiving or retailing their ideas as truth, because they advanced them. If the Holy Spirit is pleased to give me an idea, or understanding of a passage of scripture, through the instrumentality of any man, it is just as valuable as though given directly through the scriptures, it equally becomes my own. My brethren, know the difference between receiving an idea merely because it appears plausible, or because it is the opinion of one in whom we have confidence; and its being given us by the Holy Ghost. In the latter case it is spoken to us, as Isaiah says, “with a strong hand,” {Isa. 8:11}, the scriptures are brought to our mind as supporting it, and we feel the internal witness of its truth.

To conclude my protracted remarks on this point. Had my “Thoughts on Justification,” been a manifest departure from the scriptural account of that subject, Brother Beebe should not have published it; but if it was sustained by the scriptures, it was not a departure from Old School principles; and before my brethren decide on its being a departure, I hope they will examine it fully, comparing it, not with Gill, but the scripture.

Secondly. The idea that it may do hurt by producing divisions among the brethren. I did hope, and I still hope, that our brethren had counted the cost, and were conscientious in taking the Old School stand upon the platform of the scriptures, as our only rule of faith and practice. If, in accordance with this stand, we come to the enquiry raised upon any point of doctrine, desirous of unlearning all that we have learned not from the scriptures, and willing to abide by the plain declaration and construction of scripture, by comparing scripture with scripture: I, for myself, think that such enquiries, instead of creating divisions, will produce a greater oneness of views among us. But, my brethren, we ought to have our hearts more deeply impressed than they are with the fact that the blessed Holy Spirit hath revealed in the scriptures everything which Infinite Wisdom saw proper we should believe and practice in religion, and that agreeable to the prediction going before, {Isa. 35:8 & Heb. l:2,} it being so plain, that he may run that readeth. Excuse my digression, while I say, not that he may read while he runneth, but that reading it, it will be to him so plain, and give him so much confidence, that he will immediately run forward in the command, and not linger along as we do when in uncertainty.

Elder Samuel Trott