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FOR THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES.

Strickersville, Pa., August, 1849.

BROTHER BEEBE: – I find that some of our brethren are extremely sensitive on the subject of controversy. Well, controversy for the sake of controversy or victory, should be discarded by us, as unbecoming the spirit of the gospel. But to maintain the truth of the gospel without controversy, is utterly impossible. The world is full of error, and to confront and expose it is the imperious duty of the servants of God; and that too, whether coming from the open enemies of the truth, or from its professed friends. Thus far, I presume those brethren will go with me, and readily admit that essential errors, whether in or out of the visible church, should be promptly met and refuted. I therefore conclude that their objections are to public discussion through the Signs, of those subjects which involve mere matters of opinion, on which a difference may exist without affecting any fundamental principle. This however depends much on the spirit in which such discussions are conducted. If conducted in an anti-gospel spirit, it should be discarded; but if in the spirit of the gospel, and with a view of either receiving or communicating information, I can see neither danger nor impropriety in it. I believe it is the desire of every honest heart, not only to be correct in all the fundamental truth of the gospel, but also in all his views and opinions in reference to it. It is not yet our happiness to have arrived at the climax of perfection, and hence the differences of opinion that arise among brethren of the same gospel faith and order. But when a difference does exist, both cannot be right; and yet both desire to be right. Now if a candid discussion should result in correcting the one that is wrong, he derives an advantage. But suppose both should continue where they were, others may be benefitted by the discussion; if not in the particular question at issue, they may receive light on some other point brought to view in the discussion. Toplady remarked; “When the flint and steel come in contact, they may produce some sparks that will both warm and enlighten.” True, in instances where the question at issue involves a simple matter of opinion, the flint and steel may be used with rather too much violence, and produce a little too much fire. But we must remember we are yet in the flesh, and when under the influence of an excited state of feeling, it will develop its deformity, and thus afford cause of regret to our friends and repentance in ourselves.

An allusion has been made, I presume, to a difference of opinion between brother Trott and myself on the “Bond of union.” Now I am not conscious of using an unkind expression in the course of my remarks, and if such an expression exists, it has escaped my notice, and I do most solemnly recall it. On the other hand, I saw nothing in brother Trott’s to excite any unpleasant feeling in me. I believe all he said was in a brotherly spirit. True, we differed; but if I understand the matter properly, the difference is not essential. I presume we agree as to the facts of this union; that the union has existed as long as Christ has existed as the Head, and the church as his body. Again, as to the indissoluble nature of that union, and also in relation to the glorious privileges resulting from it to the church. Our difference is therefore simply in reference to that which constitutes the bond by which they are held together. I took occasion in my communication to propose a query on the subject of creation. My reason for so doing I will now give. – From my first reflection on Eph. ii. 10, I have understood it to have reference to the conversion of the sinner, and particularly gentile sinners; but when I found brethren for whose opinions I entertained the highest respect, and I am sincere in saying that I regarded them as far superior to myself in knowledge and wisdom: I say, when I found such brethren taking a very different view of that text and of is connection, I began to think that perhaps I was wrong, and, for a considerable time I was agitated on the subject: and indeed, I may say, I was unsettled in my mind on the question; and with the view of getting all the light I could, I proposed the query. Since which I have read and heard in conversation much on the subject, all of which has left me just where I was, until I was led to give it another investigation, and if ever in my life I investigated a subject with an honest and sincere desire to obtain a correct understanding of it, I did so on this occasion; the result of which is a more full confirmation of the correctness of my first view that I took of it, than ever. I am now as fully satisfied, as I am on any subject in the bible, that Paul, or the Holy Ghost through him, was treating, not on what was done for the church in eternity, but what is done for her in time, in the conversion of the gentiles. True all that is done for her in time is the result of what was done for her in eternity. I am aware that, so far as relates to the particular design of the apostle in this case, I am at issue with yourself and others for whom I entertain as high esteem as I ever wish to entertain for any of my fellow beings; for I think I could not entertain a higher esteem for a fellow being than I do for these brethren, without running into idolatry; and of that sin, I know they do not wish me to be guilty. I hope this will not be construed into a design to flatter; for such is not my intention; but it is the fact of being constrained to differ with them in this instance that has prompted me to make this declaration of high personal esteem.

I cannot however see that this difference goes to affect any fundamental principle of the gospel. I fully believe that ever since Christ has existed as the Head, the church has existed as the body, and that her redemption from the curse, by the blood of Christ, her sanctification by the Holy Ghost, and her final glorification are all results of that glorious and indissoluble union: and that we may share an interest in this union: and realize its happy effects, is the prayer of

Yours, as ever,
THOMAS BARTON.

P.S., I have not given any of the particulars that have led me to adopt the views I have adopted, on the subject of the above, nor do I know that I shall, as it is not my wish to enter into a protracted discussion on the subject. T. B.

Signs of the Times
Volume 17, No. 17.
September 1, 1849.