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REGARDING A LETTER BY OSBOURN.

BROTHER BEEBE: - I fear I shall make myself liable to the charge of being censorious, and also that I shall intrude upon the patrons of the SIGNS by the frequency of my communications recently. I had scarcely finished my remarks occasioned by brother S.’s letter, when I received the 14th number of the SIGNS, containing Elder James Osbourn’s Letter, No.1 & 2, to Brother Hassell, in which there are two or three points, upon which I was truly constrained by my feelings {and I hope they were correct feelings} to drop a few remarks.

1st. He has brought to view certain ideas relative to the present and succeeding state of the church for many years to come, which have not to my knowledge, been generally entertained. The ideas are that the saints are dieing a mystical death, are suffering an inward martyrdom, from a famine that is now upon us, &c., and that this state of things is to remain for many years; that this is all the suffering worth speaking of that they need to fear for many years, &c.; that this famine is not to be accompanied by the sword; that we are not near unto persecuting times, &c. Now these are Elder Osbourn’s thoughts; and they may be correct thoughts; but his thinking so can be no authority for my thinking so. If he shows me good and Scriptural grounds for his conclusions, then I shall receive them as true. I am not; and I hope most of our Old School Baptists are not disposed to receive any man’s assertions as authority in religion. Now what I want upon this point is that Elder Osbourn should give us his authority from the word of God for these views if he wishes us instructed by them. The Lord by Amos says, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7. If therefore the Lord has determined to bring and continue such a state of things upon the church as Elder Osbourn describes it stands recorded in prophecy, in the scriptures of truth; and as he speaks positive as to what God’s thoughts are in this matter, I think we have good right to expect of him that he will show us the prophecy and its application to this time and case. He has, it is true, given us some texts. But the point is; has he applied them correctly? He quotes Jer.14:2 & 3, as being a prophecy of the calamity that is now upon gospel Zion. I am not disposed to dispute its application, but if admitted, his hypothesis falls, for the sword and the famine and the pestilence are to go together, see verses 12, 15 –18. And so we know in fact, they went together in the primary fulfillment of this prophecy as it relates to the Jews. Lam.1:6, is liable to a similar remark. Again, he quotes Dan.11:34, evidently as a prophecy relating to this event, saying, “But in this calamity {that is of the famine,} of ours, we shall be holpen, &c.” Now by taking verses 33 and 34 together, we find that the calamity from which they are to be holpen is that of the sword and flame and captivity. So that I cannot find anything there to support his view. Again, Jer.30:17, is no more favorable, for it is from the wounds of a cruel enemy that they are to be healed, and those that have devoured Zion, and who were adversaries and preyed upon her, &c., that were to be destroyed; see the connection from verse 14. He also quotes Rev.3:2, as applicable. I will not say it is not, but am however inclined to believe that in the order it refers to an earlier period than this. And whether it does or not; it is not those who are ready to die, but, the things which remained that are ready to die, as it stands in the text.

The 2nd point relates to what he says of those who preach the truth of the gospel, in distinction from those judaizing teachers. In the first place I would like to know whether the nine tenths who are on the sick list, and whom he calls gospel preachers; are to be considered persons who are subjects of grace, and whom the Lord has sent forth as laborers into his harvest or not? From the expressions above quoted I should conclude he views them as such; but what he says in his 1st Letter, and quotes I Cor.13 to support, and from his saying that most of our pulpits where the truth in the letter is preached, are void of holy unction and heavenly dew, and some other expressions, I should conclude he meant to represent them as total strangers to a life of faith on the Son of God and to true gospel grace in their hearts. Then the Lord have mercy on us, for I know not who of us will stand. If such a portion of those whom, we Old School Baptists are used to consider gospel preachers are to fall short at last, I have every reason to fear that I shall be of that miserable number. I would like to be informed of what he means by that holy unction, which the few have? I have read of an unction from the Holy One, which is distinguished as teaching all things &c. I John 2:20, 27. And I have thought that those whom we call gospel preachers manifest more of this latterly than formerly, in the clear illustrations they give of scripture and scriptural truth.

If he considers these nine tenths as persons whom Christ has gifted and called into the ministry; the next enquiry I would make is, whether the ministry mostly becoming a dry breast, and clouds without water, &c., is a fault of ours or owing to a peculiar dispensation of God wherein he would afflict his church? If the former, may the Lord give us repentance; if the latter, I entreat the few favored ones to have compassion on us, and not speak tauntingly concerning us; for surely the affliction of being thus barren, towards our brethren is sufficient.

I know very well that gospel preachers, at this day labor under very peculiar discouragements, both from within and without, that they truly prophecy in sackcloth. I also know that there is a general dearth in Zion, and I have myself concluded that a famine was coming upon the church. But the idea that it is a separate thing from the persecution which awaits the church in the last struggle of the beast, and to last of itself for many years, throws such an additional gloom upon the prospect before us, and appears so different from anything I had conceived of the prophecies concerning Zion, and of Christ’s tender care of his church as the Great Shepherd, that I cannot give in to it without some pretty clear Scriptural proofs in point. And yet if I have been deceived in my views upon these points, I wish to be undeceived.

And in reference to what he says of the ministry; that is, what he admits to be gospel ministry, I may misapprehend him; but I think he speaks rather too contemptuous of us, and not to manifest that fellow sympathy which he ought to feel for our deplorable state if we indeed are Christ’s ministers. If he is more favored in his own soul, and in being enabled to administer savoury food such as deeply exercised can feed on, he has nothing whereof to glory.

But the 3rd point is one in which as Paul said to Peter {Gal.2:11,} he is, as I think, to be blamed. It is simply an allusion in his 2nd Letter; but he refers to the ninth part of his life, {a work which he published this past winter,} for a full account. He in that chapter of his own biography, speaks very disrespectfully of a brother who stands firm as an Old School Baptist. This brother is considered by some as rather severe in his manner of preaching against errors; but it is nothing he has borrowed, it is simply his own peculiar manner of expressing himself, and to those of us who have had some familiar acquaintance with him, he appears to possess much of the spirit of meekness and humility; yea, in every respect more of the spirit of the gospel than many who make higher pretensions to holiness. I will not say what was the substance of this brother’s preaching at the period to which Elder Osbourn alludes, for he was at that time on a high pinnacle of popularity, a station which I do not myself believe favorable for administering wholesome food to the poor or afflicted of the flock, but since that, he has been through the fire, with the furnace much heated, and during the whole has been a steadfast, firm advocate for gospel truth. If Elder Osbourn cannot be himself reconciled to him, so as to fellowship him as a brother, still as others whom he acknowledges as saints, do feel a fellowship for him; I should consider it more consistent with a gospel order and spirit for him to have borne his grievance by himself, seeing it is nothing he can make a proper subject of discipline, rather than to have published him as he has done. And especially I think the SIGNS ought by no means to be made a vehicle for conveying these attacks on the feelings of a brother already suffering oppression on every hand. This I think my brethren will generally admit, when in addition to what has been said, we consider his steadfast and disinterested course in support of truth, notwithstanding all the opposition and discouragements he has had to contend with in the city where he resides. Instead of leaving the little company of disciples, who adhered to him for the truth’s sake, to be scattered or find pasture where they could, because they could not furnish him a support, as others have done, he has engaged in a laborious but honest business for his own support while he continues to preach regularly unto them.

In conclusion I will observe that my remarks on the first two points might more properly have been omitted till I had an opportunity of seeing his third Letter, should it be published, were it not that I knew the feelings of our brother must be wounded at seeing such an allusion to him in the SIGNS, and I did not feel disposed to leave him any longer than I could help, to feel as though he had no brother to sympathize with him. Besides from the manner in which Elder Osbourn appeared to shape his subject, I thought it not likely he would furnish any more light upon the points on which I wanted information, and if this should reach him before his other was published he might perhaps be disposed to gratify my wishes before he closed his subject. For I truly wish to know the ground upon which he establishes his views relative to the present state of the church.

S.TROTT.
Fairfax C.H., Va., July 15, 1835.