Lexington, Ky., Jan., 1879.
MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - I have been fully satisfied for more than fifty years, that the difficulty with the people of God in explaining the warfare which so distressingly annoys and perplexes them, results from want of understanding the relations they sustain to the Lord Jesus Christ, and their complex character as the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. They have not considered the complex character of the Husband, that he was composed of two whole and distinct natures, the divine and the earthly; and the bride must partake alike of the same, or they could not enjoy each other’s society. She sustained the relation to him originally, as “created in righteousness and true holiness;” but according to the divine arrangement, she must partake of flesh and blood, and in thus partaking she transgressed the divine law and became exposed to its curse. Hence it is said, “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise [after the same manner] took part of the same,” &c. He was the Christ of God before, and they were the children of God before partaking of the same. Under the Jewish law, when a Jew became indebted beyond his means of payment, he was sold into bondage, and the nearest of kin possessed the right of redemption; but if he declined, the statute required that he should take off his shoe and cast it to the next nearest of kin, and thus transfer his right to redeem. But, thank God, Jesus, our nearest of kin, did not transfer his right. “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” It is admitted on all hands that the entire family of the earthly Adam were created in and with him. Is the mystery, that the spiritual family should have been created in their spiritual Head before the foundation of the world, less true? Of the earthly family it is said, “And called their name Adam.” What is more common than to call children after the name of their father? Hence, all born of the flesh are nothing more than Adam multiplied. But Paul tells us of another family: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” And we hear Christ say, by the prophet, “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth, even every one that is called by my name. For I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Very soon after I became a member of the church, I heard a minister say from the pulpit, “In the new birth the soul, or man, is changed from the love of sin to the love of holiness.” This plunged me into deep distress, finding this was not my case, that I was continually sinning. I ventured to inquire, Who changed him? The reply was, God. I remember that Moses said, “He is the Rock; his work is perfect.” My reason told me that if that change were wrought in me, I would be as wholly devoted to holiness after, as I had been to sin before the change. This increased my agony. This was not all; he said, “In the new birth the enmity of the heart is slain.” I knew well, if this were true, I was no christian. Such was my distress, laboring under a heavy domestic affliction, I went to the church, and told them I was satisfied I was no christian; if they could see into my heart, they would have as much fellowship for the devil as for me. My distress seemed to be almost unbearable. I found myself murmuring at the providence of God, and could not suppress it. Go where I would, by day or by night, I felt rebellion rise in my heart; and on the third Saturday evening in 1820, riding alone, mourning over the rebellion of my poor heart, the text occurred, “When I would do good, evil is present with me.” Again, “The good I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.” This was Paul’s experience, but he was not as rebellious as I. I had gone but a short distance when another declaration of Paul occurred to my mind, “The flesh [or fleshly man] 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.” This startled me. This is Paul’s experience; is it not yours? I could doubt no more on the subject. So strong was the impression on my mind, that while riding along I spoke aloud, Paul is right, and those who differ from him are wrong. The correctness of this conclusion was so irresistible, that from my earliest ministry I maintained the doctrine that “the old man is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts;” but “the new man, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” And these are the antagonistic parties in the people of God, which cause the wrestling, striving and fighting which so disturb their peace. I preached the doctrine for five and twenty years, without its being called in question, so far as I know and believe. At the session of our association in 1845, I was appointed to prepare a Circular Letter for the following year. I wrote the Circular on the “origin, nature, and effects of the spiritual warfare.” On my way to our association the next year, and calling at the house of a dear ministering brother, whose wife had been confined to her bed two or three years, the brother remarked, “Brother Dudley, I remember you were appointed to write the Circular; have you written it?” I replied, “I have written two.” He said, “My wife has been confined to her bed for two or more years, and could not get out to preaching; have you any objection to reading them?” I replied, “No; I have no secrets from my brethren.” While reading the Circular, tears ran freely down her face, and when through, she exclaimed, “O, brother Dudley, that is the letter,” placing her hand on her breast; “I have it here.” I left to attend other appointments, and on the morning the association met, the brother to whom I have alluded came to me, and said, “I spent last night with two of our ministers, who will object to the adoption of the letter.” Then said I, “I will not offer it, as I will not intentionally cause difficulty.”
The next year the committee declined to recommend the adoption of a Circular which had been written, and were about to adjourn, when a brother, who had seen the Circular on the Warfare, [contrary to my wish] brought it to the attention of the committee, who offered it as a substitute for the one which had been written. Two members said, “The letter contains some things too deep for our understanding, but we will go with the association if they wish to adopt it.” I immediately objected, saying, “I have no misgiving as to the truth of the doctrine taught in the letter, but I will not burden my brethren.” Many misrepresentations of the contents of the letter were made, and in February, 1849, I had one thousand copies printed, the association had three thousand more printed, and twelve thousand or more were published in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, which caused, or rather was made a pretext for, two small churches to withdraw from the association. Recently the war on the Circular has been renewed in certain quarters, and it has been denounced as the worst kind of heresy. Strange as it may appear, while so many hard things have been said against its teachings, there has not been one man found in the ranks of the opposition who has had the courage to bring it to the test on its merits or demerits, as the case may be, and show a want of harmony with the divine word. Truth is omnipotent. It is gratifying to believe there is not a dissenting person in our connection from the doctrine of the warfare, as illustrated in the foregoing illustration.
As ever, your brother in hope of eternal life,
Thomas P. Dudley.