DEAR BROTHER WILLIAM: - Brother Mitchell’s letter in the number of the MESSENGER for February 15, 1854, has put me in the notion of saying a few words to him through the MESSENGER; and whilst I am writing I will also offer a few remarks for the consideration of brother Pate.
In reference to brother Mitchell, I was truly sorry to hear from him of the grievous temptations, in addition to his other afflictions, under which he appeared to be laboring at the time he wrote that letter. I know he is in the hands of him who knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations; and that though he may have suffered Satan to have him, so far in his power for a season, that he may sift him as wheat, yet the Lord will take care that not the least grain shall fall upon the earth. I also know that, “No chastening for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” But that which I wish particularly to remark upon, is the temptation brother Mitchell seems to be under, that because his own mind is in darkness with regard to the present comforts of religion, and because he cannot clear the clouds which hang over himself, he concludes that he can no longer be instrumental in edifying and comforting others, and therefore he will not try. If brother Mitchell’s communications had drawn upon him as much opposition from brethren as mine have upon me, and caused them to say as many hard things of him as they have of me, there might be some ground for him to hesitate about writing for a periodical designed to be in part at least, supported by those who condemn his writings. But it is not so with brother Mitchell; the brethren I think have generally been well pleased with his writings. Or if when he attempts to write on any subject the Lord is pleased so to shut up his mind, so that the subject is dark to him, or that he cannot collect or arrange his thoughts, as I know he can do both, when we attempt to write or attempt to preach, whilst such is the case it may be well to be silent. But brother Mitchell when his health admitted of his preaching, because at one time his mind was shut up, or because he felt too unworthy to attempt to speak to the people, would not have felt justified in refusing to try to preach any more.
If he is afraid that the circumstance of brethren so frequently calling upon him for his views of texts of Scripture will tend to lift up with pride, this very trial he is now in shows how easy the Lord can lay him low in his own estimation, and keep him humble. So that I hope he will reconsider this matter, and as the Lord shall give him strength and opportunity he will still let the brethren hear from him, and will give them such views as the Lord gives him.
In reference to brother Pate, when he first wrote his objections to an opinion of mine which I had casually dropped, you were good enough to take up the subject and to say all that I thought was necessary in reply. And when he wrote the second time, it was not because I thought brother Pate’s remarks not worth replying to, nor that his arguments were not as good as could be produced on that side of the question, that I have not sooner noticed it, but in part because I did not think the subject, in itself considered, of that importance, that I do not know that brother Pate would be made any more wise unto salvation, were we to convince him of the correctness of our position, or that we should be made any more thus wise, were he to convince us of the correctness of his. But still there is a principle or two involved in the matter that is of some importance. 1st. Under the gospel, Christ is revealed as the One Mediator between God and men, hence he is not only the Head of the church, as his body, but is the immediate Head of all communication between God and his people. The New Testament recognizes no intermediate heads, no semi-mediators, as between Christ and the people, however fashionable they are among the various religionists of our day. The apostles as I was showing when I made the remarks to which brother Pate objects were the immediate representation of the gospel church in its visible form, with its gifts, &c. Hence in order to bring a proper representation of the immediate dependence of the church upon Christ, they were called directly of Christ as are all subjects of grace, not through others being sent to them, and the twelve were directly ordained of him, as apostles. It is true, that one of those he ordained betrayed him and thus fell from his office, and as Peter showed from the Psalms another was to take his bishoprick. Now the enquiry is, as well as the point of difference between brother Pate and us, was this substitute to the office of Judas, to be appointed according to the Old Testament order, by lots and intermediate agents, or according to New Testament order, immediately by Christ as the Head? If the former be considered, as practiced by the eleven in the case of selecting Matthias, as being established gospel order in making an apostle, then I see not why it is not an example to be carried out, and why we may not resort to secondary means for filling the churches with professors, and for supplying the churches with preachers. If the New Testament order was to be observed in this case, then it would have been the place of the disciples to have waited till the Lord should call and ordain for himself an apostle in the place of Judas; and so according to this order it becomes us, instead of manufacturing christians and preachers, to wait on the Lord to bring in the subjects of his grace, and to send forth laborers of his own choosing into the harvest in his own time and way. So that the point is whether grace reigns sovereignly, or whether there is an interposition of secondary means. That is, as the subject appears to me; it may appear differently to brother Pate.
Another principle apparently involved, is whether the principle contended for by the Old School Baptists; namely, that a command of Christ is requisite to sanction our doing anything as a religious act; or whether we are at liberty to do whatever seems to us right in religion regardless of any direct command from Christ. Now we have direct evidence that Christ commanded the disciples to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high; to wait for the promise of the Father, &c. But not one word of testimony that he directed them in the mean time to select one to fill the place of Judas. As Christ was seen of his disciples forty days out of the fifty, which intervened from his resurrection, or from the Passover to the day of Pentecost; and considering the importance of this matter that when he was speaking to them of the things concerning the kingdom of God, that he should not have given directions on this point, or himself to have selected the man, if the place was to be filled out of those who accompanied with them is to me singular. And to me it is evident that he gave no such command, else why did not Peter refer to the command of Christ, instead of preaching them a sermon from the Psalms, in order to induce them to engage in that enterprise? If such an important work as that might be undertaken without any command to them to do it, why may not other things which seem reasonable from prophecy, be undertaken without any direction in the New Testament for it, such as converting the heathen to Christ, &c.?
Brother Pate speaks approvingly of casting lots in this act pertaining to the gospel kingdom. It is true that lots were appointed in certain cases under the Old Testament as an appeal to God’s decision, and were consistent with that shadowy dispensation, in which so much of their intercourse with God was through external forms. But even then there was nothing corresponding with this case in selecting an apostle. In the case of deciding which of the goats, which Aaron was to take from the children of Israel, should be for the Lord and which for the scape goat, the case was referred directly and fully to the Lord, and this showed that in the grand anti-typical atonement nothing is left to man’s choice, but all is of God’s appointment. But in this case of undertaking to appoint one of the Lord’s apostles, they go to work themselves and select two, out of how many, I know not by the description. Peter speaks of, perhaps seventy, and then in effect tells the Lord that he may have one of the two for to supply the place of Judas; and they cast lots upon the two only that he may designate his choice. This does not look to me like submitting the matter entirely to the Lord’s choice, but men appeared to have the greater share in making the selection. It looks very much like many transactions of our modern missionary gentry, in pretending by prayer to submit the choice of their missionaries to the Lord, and yet select them themselves, and send them out as the Lord’s missionaries or sent ones, as Matthias was represented to be the Lord’s apostle or sent one. In reference to Paul’s saying that the Lord was seen of the twelve next after being seen of Cephas, it is perhaps more than we can do, to determine with precision, which of the appearings of our Lord to his disciples he has reference to, but I should judge he had reference to that special appearing which Matthew and Mark both mention. In which the eleven according to a previous appointment of Christ, went into Galilee to meet him. And as there is no account of any but the eleven going there to meet him, I think Paul’s using the term twelve instead of eleven was from that same humility which led him to say that he was the last of the apostles, and that he was not meet to be called an apostle, &c., that is he would not assume to himself the province of denying that there were not twelve apostles without him. Yet at other times when his authority was disputed, he was bold to claim the authority of his office, he could say, Am I not an apostle? “Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” Again, he could speak of himself as “called to be an apostle.” An “apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God” and by the commandment of God, and as ordained to be a preacher and an apostle, and he affirms the truth of his ordination. The passage in Rev.21:14, it appears to me requires a little more attention than brother Pate gives to it, for he would intimate that the distinction is to be kept up in the New Jerusalem between Jews and Gentiles, and therefore Paul is not one of the definite twelve apostles of the Lamb. Now, brother Pate, you must excuse me, but I cannot believe in a distinction of that kind in the church militant or triumphant. And I do believe that Paul, although the apostle of the Gentiles, is as much honored, as having as a wise master builder, laid the foundation as any of the apostles. Paul says himself, “For in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”
Thus, brother Pate, I have gone more lengthy into this subject than I had intended, or than perhaps the subject required, were it not for the principles involved in it. It may be that on reviewing the subject you may see that in contending for the dignity of the disciples, you have in some measure, in this case, lost sight of that proper, that whole dignity which belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ.
However, I have given you my reasons for differing from you on this point. If they are satisfactory to you, I shall be pleased, if they are not I have no wish to be offended with you.
Yours with christian regards,
Fairfax C.H., Va., March 6, 1854.