Near Lexington, Ky., Jan. 7, 1839.
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: – Shortly after brother Trott’s “Thoughts on Justification” appeared in the Signs, I wrote a piece in reply, designed for publication at some future day, when brother West should have had an opportunity of responding to brother Trott; conceiving that it would be indelicate for me to interfere, as brother T. had given among others, as a reason for his publication, that a correspondent in Baltimore had requested the correspondence previously had between brother Trott and brother West to be published through the columns of the signs. During brother Clark’s visit to us last spring, I showed to him the piece I had written and assigned to him the reasons for delaying its publication, he concurred with me in the propriety of such delay, whilst I delayed for brother West’s reply communications for, and against, brother Trott’s thoughts multiplied so rapidly, and with all, there was so much acrimony discovered in some of those communications, that I foresaw serious embarrassments of feeling amongst Old School Baptist must ensue; hence I felt great hesitancy in contributing to perpetuate a discussion which, if persisted in and directed by the spirit which seemed to influence the production of some of those communications, I believe would ultimately produce a division in the ranks of the Old school Baptists.
I frankly confess I felt some surprise on reading Brother Trott’s thoughts, recollecting that on his visit to Kentucky, three years before their appearance in the Signs, he was understood distinctly to occupy the ground occupied in the Circular of the Licking Association, published in 1837. I was more surprised that he should object to the term “Eternal justification,” because of the want of a plain “thus saith the Lord,” and yet contend for the doctrine of “Eternal union,” when he admits there is no direct scripture declaration to sustain that phraseology. I felt some mortification that he should assume to himself to have been taught his present views by the Holy Spirit, and charge all who oppose his views with deriving their opinions from Doct. Gill. I will not retort by saying that Bro. T. received his present opinions on that subject from the “Authors loaned him by a brother,” in which they were fully holden forth. Truth is less true because propagated by Gillites; nor is error less error because of their dissemination by those who conceive themselves under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I was the more astonished when I read (in No. 19, page 146, column 3,) this sentence of brother T. in reply to Brother Crooks: “That the Church, in that life which Christ is and is the Head and Fountain of to his people, STOOD EVER PERFECT, Brother C. must be aware I have uniformly contended for.” This (to my mind) is yielding the point at issue: for if the Church was ever perfect in Christ, (and she never has been out of him) she was always righteous in him, and consequently always justified in him. Directly in point is the following declaration, which alludes to a transaction antecedently to the death of Christ: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he WAS RIGHTEOUS. God testifying to his gifts.” Will Bro. T. content that Abel’s faith was that for and in consideration of which he was justified? But the object of Abel’s faith, – a perfect righteousness. That righteousness actually existed more than 3000 years before Christ died, or Abel’s faith was baseless; and he excluded from heaven, or admitted, in an unjustified state; neither of which propositions can Old School Baptists admit. Abel was not righteous in himself, but in the Lord our righteousness; nor could he have been righteous in him, unless he existed as the Lord our righteousness 4000 years before his death on Calvary.
Brother T. concludes because the idea that the determination on the port of Jehovah to impute the sins of the Church to Christ, and his righteousness to her, were simultaneous, and covenant stipulations before the world began, that the circular “Cuts off its own head;” because it severs, as he concludes, the Head from the Body. I ask, does not an Apostle say, “GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH, JUSTIFIED IN THE SPIRIT,” &c. It will not be denied that this was the God in Christ I presume. Was he not justified at his manifestation and before that event? If so, the Church was justified in him. Again, “That HOLY THING which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Is the Church his Body, separated from him in the last quotation? If not, she was recognized as holy in him at his birth, and previously to his resurrection. Again. It is said the children of the regeneration were created in righteousness and true holiness. Creation certainly precedes the resurrection of Christ; and the Church is declared to be “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Take the last two quotations, which evidently have reference to the same matter, and I ask if the Church was created in Christ before his crucifixion; and it is true that she was created in righteousness and true holiness, and if righteousness is that which justifies, does it not follow of necessity that she was justified before Christ rose from the dead?
Again. Whilst a wife or an infant can bind the husband or father for debt in law, neither can bind themselves: the debt is chargeable to the husband or father, who is held responsible for payment, in law. Again. Suppose I purchase a tract of land from you upon a credit of 20 yrs. I execute a bond with ample security for the payment of the money, upon which you propose making a general warranty deed; I desire the deed to be made to Brother Trott, and possession given him of the premises on the 1st day of March next; according to contract, this conveyance is made to Brother Trott without a consideration paid you in the premises by him. Now I ask, has he not the right to appropriate the proceeds of the land to his own use for 20 years before a cent is paid of the purchase money? And, in the event of my failings to cancel my bonds, I ask, can you receive payment of Brother Trott? You must answer in the negative. Now for the application: Christ undertook in eternity for his people; their sins became his, by virtue of that undertaking: they were to be recognized as standing erect in their relation to him, without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing. Hence it is said, – “Thou ART [not shall be upon resurrection] all fair my love, there is no spot in thee.”
I am, however, transcending the limits I had prescribed myself, and have not yet said what mainly formed the design of this communication. Some friend has done me the kindness to forward to me, from Maryland, a pamphlet titled, “A spiritual vindication of the doctrine of Justification by Verilatis Amieus,” “Published by Elder Plummer Waters, near the Laurel Factory, Priace George Co., Md.” The publication of which in the “Signs,” I confidently believe will subserve the cause of truth. Its anonymous character will not render the arguments used less interesting to those who are searching after truth; and if they can be refuted, still the cause of truth will not be prejudiced thereby. I am induced to ask their insertion, because the views taken are emphatically those contained in the reply which I had written to Brother Trott’s thoughts, (shown Brother Clark) and the arguments carried out to their legitimate conclusions more satisfactory to my mind than those which I had written myself, and which are calculated to afford more information to your readers (being more full and comprehensive) than what I had written. I may say that many of your subscribers in this region are solicitious for the publication of this pamphlet through the columns of the Signs. I should not urge this request if I thought there was any thing justly exceptionable in the style in which that pamphlet is written, or if many anonymous pieces had not appeared through the columns of the Signs. I am not of course fully aware of the reasons which influenced you in declining to publish that piece before its appearing in pamphlet form, but hope there is no insuperable barrier in the way of its now appearing. It is true that it is lengthy, but more space will not be occupied than has been on the other side of the question discussed.
THOMAS P. DUDLEY
Signs of the Times
Volume 7, No. 3.
February 1, 1839