Lexington, Ky., March 24, 1871.
MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - The sixth number of the current volume of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES came to hand a day or two since, in which I have read attentively a communication from Elder John A. Thompson, of Lebanon, Ohio, offering a criticism on some things contained in my letter published in the number for the first of February. I take no exception whatever to the spirit of that letter, however much we may be found to differ on the points criticized. I fully accord to brother Thompson, and to all other brethren, the right to criticize anything I may have written, or may write for the eye of my brethren, on the subject of the religion of Christ. I desire however that they shall show wherein I have misinterpreted or misapplied any portion of the divine record. The circular on the Christian Warfare has now been the subject of criticism, sometimes severe, since its publication, more than twenty years, and more than three thousand copies have been printed and circulated among the brethren. I should be gratified that those who attempt to criticize its teachings would specify what in it is antagonistical to the doctrine of the Bible. I am fully conscious of my own imperfections, and liability to err, and am anxious, if in error, to learn the better way. I am now too old, and it would require too much labor to re-write all that I have written on that, to me, deeply interesting and, as I conceive, important subject.
Brother Thompson has not now to learn that the first Adam was composed of soul, body and spirit, and that the soul is generally conceded to be the seat of intelligence, which distinguishes man from the rest of the creation, possessed of animal life, and that it is this intelligence which renders man the subject of law, and responsible to God.
“And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” Brother Thompson and I shall not differ in opinion that the likeness spoken of is the likeness of “God manifest in the flesh.” Nor yet shall we differ in regard to what is said of the creature man. “In the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” Gen.5:2,3. Nor yet shall we disagree in regard to the declaration, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” Christ, the anti-type of Adam, was possessed of soul and body. Hence it is said, “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.” My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” Again, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” With regard to the earthly or old man, it is said, “For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever.” Psalm 49:8. “For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb.4:12. With regard to the spirit of man, Paul said, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” I Cor.2:11. Brother Thompson will not require more proof that the earthly Adam was composed of soul, body and spirit. If however he desires more, please read the following: “Abstain from all appearance of evil, and the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” I Thes.5:23,24. From the last quotation we learn, first, that Paul’s brethren to whom he wrote were partakers, or composed of body, soul and spirit; and secondly that neither their spirit, soul or body was born of God. Each was liable to contract blame, which the apostle John will not allow as possible. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” I John 3:9.
Allow me to call brother Thompson’s attention to the text, “And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his own image, and called his name Seth.” Gen.5:3. Brother Thompson will excuse me for my obtuseness in comprehending how “our corrupt lusts or sinful propensities” could beget the old man, or from whence the old man derived his being, if not from the earthly Adam. But the apostle abundantly sustains my declaration, to which brother Thompson objects, and which he concludes is indefensible, the Bible being the guide, namely: “I conclude the old man is an entire old man, composed of soul, body, and spirit, and bears the image of his natural father.” He adds, “Brother Dudley, will you be so kind as to tell us why you conclude thus?” It gives me pleasure to inform brother Thompson how my mind is irresistibly brought to the conclusion. First, I have already quoted that Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image, and I now offer additional and, as I think, irrefragable proof. “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit. How be it, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. AS IS THE EARTHY, SUCH ARE THEY ALSO THAT ARE EARTHY. And as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” I Cor.15:45-49. Could language be more emphatic to establish the character of the children of each, the first and last Adam? Brother Thompson has wholly misapprehended my meaning in regard to the buckeye. It was designed, in part, as illustrating the text, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.” Brother T. will not deny, I apprehend, that everything that will spring from or grow out of the corn of wheat had a life existence in the germ, or that every seed will, according to the word of God, produce its kind. If I comprehend brother Thompson, he denies that the old man is the son of the first Adam. He seems to make him a sort of non-descript, or automation, destitute of mind, will, or anything pertaining to a living intelligent being. And yet we see the old man living, moving, eating, drinking, trading, &c. If the old man is not a living, conscious, intelligent being; whence do we find so many warnings and cautions against him? Although the old man, who so much annoys, harasses and distresses the christian, or new man, is “dead to the law by the body of Christ,” yet will he not cease to war until he shall fall a prey to death temporal.
Brother Beebe, I have wondered that brethren seem so much excited when we speak of the “old man” and the “new man,” as the antagonistic parties to the christian warfare. I have been told, “If you will call them two principles, we will not object. But we will not have your two men.” I tell them, I only characterize them as the apostle did. He tells us, “The old man is corrupt with his deeds.” “The old man is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” He furthermore tells us, “The new man, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Again, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” And yet again, “But though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”
Let us, dear brethren, ask ourselves, Is it more mysterious that two men should dwell in our earthly tabernacle, than that two nations should be in Rebekah’s womb, and that two manner of people should be separated from her bowels, and that one people should be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger? See Gen.25:23. Or that Solomon should see in the Shulamite as it were a company of TWO ARMIES? And remember that “As then, he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” Gal.4:29.
We said in a document published more than twenty years since, “Where brethren agree that salvation is of the Lord, and wholly of grace, and that the warfare follows being born again, our fellowship for them has not been interrupted though they use a different mode of expressing themselves; and we think it rather uncharitable in them to withdraw fellowship from us because of our manner of illustrating the subject.”
Brother Beebe, we are told that history repeats itself. As part of the current history of the times, I propose introducing a piece of that history, which I do not suppose brother Thompson will fail to remember. Many years since, and after the Circular on the Warfare, in which is necessarily involved the doctrine of union of Christ and the church, had been printed, and extensively circulated, I received a letter from the late Elder McQuary, of Indiana, than whom I do not think I have ever known a truer friend, or more faithful minister of Christ, informing me that I had been greatly misrepresented, and the author of the mis-representations had found an endorser, who had weight of character, or influence among the Baptists, and that several Old Baptists who had heard me preach, and said if they had ever heard the truth preached, they heard it from me, but from what was reported of me they felt embarrassed. Now, said brother McQuary, brother Dudley, I very much desire that you shall attend the approaching session of Conn’s Creek Association, which is to meet, I think he said, with Conn’s Creek Church, in his immediate neighborhood, and that he would meet me at Edinburg, Ind., with conveyance. I responded that I would, unless providentially hindered, be at Edinburg on the certain day named, on the morning train. Brother McQuary met and conveyed me to his house, where I remained from Wednesday afternoon until Friday morning following, during which time not one word passed between us on the subject of his letter. On Friday morning we went to the association, and while standing in company with Elders Wilson Thompson, John F. Johnson, Nay, Jackson, who had not then been ordained, John A. Thompson, with several other ministers, whose names I do not now remember. Brother McQuary passed and touched me on the shoulder, saying, Brother Dudley, you have got to preach the introductory. I turned my head and replied, Go and preach your own introductory. Brother Wilson Thompson said in his familiar way, When old Mack gives an order he intends being obeyed. We went on the stand, and I determined within myself, if I can find language plain enough to make myself understood, a future misrepresentation should be willful. I took up my subject, embracing the points about which I had been so often and so grossly misrepresented, and after discussing the subject for perhaps from forty minutes to an hour, a brother in the congregation cried out aloud, If that man is a heretic, so am I. He was responded to by another in a different part of the congregation, So am I. Yes, said brother Wilson Thompson, brethren, if that is heresy, we are all heretics. As you may suppose, those exclamations produced considerable excitement in the congregation. The introductory being concluded, Elder John A. Thompson was requested to occupy the stand, who in his introductory remarks was understood to say, I heard brother Dudley once before, and then said, If I ever heard the gospel preached, brother Dudley preached it. Since then I took a pretty extensive tour in Kentucky, when I heard many things said against brother Dudley, but it was among his enemies. He then endorsed most fully and feelingly what I preached on that occasion.
When it is remembered that I had been reported far and near as guilty of the “worst kind of heresy,” and fellowship publicly withdrawn from me in various quarters, you will not wonder that being endorsed by so large and intelligent an assembly of brethren made an impression on my mind not easily to be erased.
Brother John A. Thompson may have misapprehended me, or he may have had different reasons since to change his opinion. In either case I attach no blame to him.
In the year 1852 I visited the Scioto and Muskingom Associations, and there found that the charge of heresy had preceded me. The brethren of each association, at each of which I preached several times, were very kind, and I had the satisfaction to know that, heretic as I had been charged with being, the body of each association cordially received what I preached, and invited me to visit them again.
In the year 1860 I had a long tour in Missouri, extending from St. Joseph down the Missouri River to St. Charles, preaching some twenty times, to large congregations, with every evidence I could ask that the doctrine was cordially received generally, although I had been published as a heretic in several places I visited. I also attended the White Water and Lebanon Associations, in Indiana, and Okaw, in Illinois, and at each I preached several times, and had assurances that the doctrine was received. Less than four years ago I attended Red River Association, in Tennessee, which had discontinued correspondence with us many years since, because of my reported heresy; but upon hearing me for themselves, assured me that the doctrine I preached was what they believed, and their belief that I had been slandered. In addition to all these cases, two associations in this state, which had discontinued correspondence for the same assured cause, came back with full acknowledgments, and were cordially received into correspondence again.
Taking into view the foregoing facts, combined with the additional one that I had been preaching the same doctrine for more than twenty years before I wrote the circular, without hearing the first exception taken to the doctrine, and you, brother Beebe, will perceive how fully you are sustained in the following remarks in the last number of the SIGNS: “And we firmly believe that much mischief and mystification have already resulted from the attempts of some overmuch wise and confident expositors attempting to interpret his meaning.” Nor are you more mistaken in saying, “And if we have not altogether failed to understand him, it is the consciousness of the depravity of his own fleshly nature that has led him to express his views upon this very subject of the conflicting elements which are found in all the children of God while here in the flesh.”
Brother Beebe, since I commenced writing, the PRIMITIVE BAPTIST came to my address, in which I find my letter copied from the SIGNS of the 1st of February last, with a number of comments by the editor. The spirit of those remarks comes kind and brotherly as one could ask. Elder Temple asks me to tell him what the soul of man is. I was asked the same question more than twenty years since, by those who denounced me as an heretic, because I could not conscientiously say I believed that the soul literally was regenerated and born again, and resurrected and become the new man. I then answered, as I now answer Elder Temple, I most frankly confess that I am so ignorant that I am utterly incapable of defining that mysterious indefinable something, called the soul; but if they, or he, will tell me what the soul is, as they certainly ought to do, since they insist that it is regenerated and born again, I will then tell them whether or not I think it is born again.
Elder Temple has given me a new idea, however. He tells me, “The dust of the ground fashioned into a man, and the breath of life, as it was afterwards breathed into his nostrils, is the new man.” If I comprehend him, I confess the idea is too obtuse for my comprehension, and he must excuse my ignorance. Especially as I have all the while contended that neither soul nor body of the redeemed can go to hell, but are destined to undergo a mysterious and glorious change, by which they will be assimilated into the likeness of the soul and body of the Lord Jesus, and reign in eternal bliss. Very soon after I entertained a hope in Christ, and was received into the fellowship of the church, I was thrown into the deepest distress on hearing a minister declare from the pulpit that in the new birth, “the soul, or the man, is changed from the love of sin to the love of holiness.” I asked myself the question, If there be nothing in you which loves sin, why are you so full of it? Why do you see daily in yourself so much of it? It is true that I hated it, but still vain, foolish and presumptuous thoughts would rise up within me. Again, I asked myself, Is the enmity of your heart slain? If so, whence all that rebellion and rising up against your domestic affliction, to such an extent that, had you the power, you would roll it back? I felt as though I was ready to surrender all hope, when Paul’s experience came to my relief; “When I would do good, evil is present with me.” And, “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” I felt that my nature was no better, and that such was Paul’s case. But there was something in me that did not proceed from nature, which could be satisfied with nothing short of perfect holiness. The flesh, or fleshly man, [for really I could not conceive how my flesh, independently of a living, acting principle, would rebel against God] was yet sinful. I could not believe it was at all improved, or was any better than when I expected to be banished from the presence of God. I trust that I felt within me another intelligent somebody, who delighted in the law of God, and rejoiced to hear the brethren talk of the goodness of God and glory of Christ. My conclusion was, If the man is changed from the love of sin to the love of holiness, he would be as entirely devoted to holiness after, as he had been to sin before, especially as the change was wrought by God; and the Bible declares, “He is the Rock; his work is perfect.”
Brother Beebe, I have rested satisfied with the theory I then embraced, for over fifty years, and nothing I have yet heard has shaken that confidence. If I am in error in the premises, I pray God to deliver me from the error.
I sincerely hope I may not again feel called upon to publicly investigate this subject. If what I have already written has failed to satisfy brethren, I despair doing so.
In conclusion, if it will afford any comfort to the brethren, I will close in the language of Paul, “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.”
Affectionately, your friend and brother,
Thomas P. Dudley.