Lexington, Ky., Feb.7, 1875.
MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - I have reflected much, and more recently, on the ancient, compared with the modern systems of religion. In the days of Christ and his apostles, “the wisdom of this world is [declared to be] foolishness with God;” that “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.”
I am thoroughly convinced, from experience and observation, that all the schools, from that of one “Tyrannus,” the “Alexandrian,” and all subsequent schools gotten up for the avowed purpose of teaching the religion of Christ, have grown out of ignorance of the true nature of Bible religion, and the pride of the human heart. It seems the lessons taught by Christ and his apostles have been entirely lost on modern divines, who teach the necessity of human science in order to explain and unfold the divine mystery. Christ said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” And Paul taught, “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to us who are saved, it is the power of God.” How does this agree with the teaching of modern professors, in theological schools, who tell us it is as easy to believe as to turn your hand over? The Savior said to the Jews, “Why do ye not believe my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word.” “They have eyes, and see not, ears, and hear not; a heart, and understand not.” How ridiculously absurd the idea of bringing the blind, the deaf, aye, the dead, into their divinity schools, to be taught, and to teach others, the religion of Christ! Are they not emphatically blind leaders of the blind? And should we wonder that both fall into the ditch? I had, a short time since, a pretty fair specimen of school divinity, in a graduate of a theological school, who is called to the pastorate of a Missionary Baptist Church. He asked me if I did not believe the design in preaching the gospel was to save unregenerate sinners. Not a bit of it, said I. He then quoted, “It pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” I replied, Do you not understand plain language better than that? The apostle says, “to save them that believe,” not unbelievers. He looked astonished, and quoted, “It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” I asked, Does the apostle say unbelievers? He looked more astonished, and asked. How does the gospel save believers? I replied, saves them, when they listen and heed its teaching, from the errors, delusions and false ways you teach. I wanted to know of him whether he supposed the preaching of poor, finite and imperfect mortals is to have more influence on the carnal mind, enmity against God, than the preaching of the Savior, when he was upon earth? I further remarked that it is declared to be “the gospel of the kingdom.” It is given to a spiritual kingdom, composed of spiritual subjects, and they only understand its mysteries as the Spirit unfolds them. He wished to know if I did not believe that sinners are condemned for not believing it. I replied, Neither in whole or in part. They were condemned before the gospel was preached on earth; that sin is the transgression of the law; that where no law is, there is no transgression. And I have found no precept in the law requiring men to believe the gospel. It is “good tidings of great joy; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Those born of God.
The doctrine of missionaries and arminians generally, if I understand them, and I believe I do, is that, God requires evangelical faith and evangelical repentance of mankind universally, and damns them where they are not found. In this assumption, they slander the Righteous Judge. Let us see. “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Hence we learn that “faith is the gift of God.” Now with regard to repentance. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance unto Israel and the forgiveness of sins.” How does the matter stand? Let us see. According to their theory, God withholds faith, and Jesus withholds repentance; and Jesus, as Judge, pronounces the sentence against them! Christian, is this the just God and Savior, through whom you hope to inherit eternal blessedness? No, say you, they would dishonor my Lord, and impeach his justice. I well recollect hearing the late Elder Jonathan Going, one of the early apostles of Missionism, sent to the west, some forty or more years since, in preaching to a large assembly, at an association, say in substance, that the best time to convert and bring into the church the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, is from eight to twelve years, and that it was certain that more Sunday School scholars were the subjects of salvation than others. I suppose he entertained the same opinion with an author professing to believe in the sovereignty of God, “When men become old and hardened in sin, it is almost impossible for the Lord to convert them.” Such is the extravagance, wickedness and folly of those who “desire to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” And here I am reminded of another preacher, and author, who, after hearing me preach, asked, What objection have you to our missionary operations? I replied, You have asked me a question, and I shall of course, answer candidly. In the first place, I find no authority in my Bible for your missionary operations. In the second place, I have to say, I have never heard one of your missionary preachers, whom I could lay my hand on my heart and say, I believed, is called of God to the work of the gospel ministry. This brought the exclamation from another preacher of the same stripe. “O, brother Dudley! Brother Dudley! That is too uncharitable.” I replied, I have answered candidly. Another objection I have is, that they have the condemnation of sinners to result from the disbelief of the gospel, when you acknowledge they cannot believe it without the direct operation of the Spirit of God. They then said, The disbelief enhances their condemnation. I replied, That is about as bad. If they, or either, be living, they will remember this. Another of their preachers asked me, some five and forty years since, “Brother Tommy, where did you get the idea that natural duties pertain to natural men, and spiritual duties to spiritual men?” and added, “I have read a great deal, and heard many of the ablest preachers, in this country, and have never heard the sentiment only from you.” I replied, When God formed man of the dust of the ground, did he say, Come man, I formed you, now animate your body? You will say, No. I continued, Did he require action of him until he had breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul – a living, intelligent, conscious being? Nor does he require of sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, living spiritual action. It just occurs that some have objected to my remark, that “natural duties pertain to natural men,” and to sustain their objection, quote the apostle Paul, “Wherefore the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” But will they remember that every law, whether human or divine, has its spirit, or meaning, as well as its letter. The letter looks to the act, the spirit to the intention. For example, A determines to take the life of B, and adopts the most certain means of accomplishing his aim; but the providence of God intervenes to defeat his intention. A is a murderer in his heart, although he has failed to commit the murder, according to the spirit of the law. Another example: An idiot, or demented person, takes the life of a dozen sane men. Why is he not adjudged guilty of a crime, and subject to the penalty? Because malice afore thought, or previous intention to commit the act, cannot be predicated of him. He is not conscious of the crime. But, says the objector, man has a spirit. I reply, The horse has a spirit too. Suppose the horse shall kick to death a man, is he amenable to the law? Why not? Because of the lack of intelligence.
But to the contrast between then and now. The Savior called and sent forth twelve apostles, only one of whom, so far as the Bible informs us, was learned in the sciences of this world, being “brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a doctor of the law.” What is the testimony he bears? “And I brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God; for I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Where do you find this example followed, outside of the Particular, Primitive, or real Old School Baptists? Again, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit, and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that cometh to naught; but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery; even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew, for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him; but God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” I again ask, Where do you find this example imitated, but by our people? Where do the workmongers of our day find authority for the machinery put in operation for evangelizing the world? If truth be said, it originated in the disordered brains of their priests, who would make merchandize of the gospel; and brought these measures into being, in their conventions, general associations, missionary boards, &c. And yet they have the effrontery to claim to be Primitive, and Old School Baptists!!! In my judgment, they are ignorantly offering a direct insult to the Author of our holy religion, and virtually saying, the “means he has devised, that his banished be not expelled from him,” are inadequate, and we will supply the deficiency with our moneyed inventions.
That they have bewitched many of the Lord’s children, by their sorceries, or something quite as deleterious to spiritual health, I believe; and regarding the divine caution, “If I speak evil concerning Israel, and thou warn them not, they shall die, but their blood will I require at thy hand; but if thou warn them, they shall die, but thou shalt save thy soul.” God grant that his bewitched children may take warning.
Let us examine the contrast between then and now, further. While all the denominations, outside of the church of God, so far as I am advised, must have learned preachers, vainly supposing that the sciences of this world, which are based on natural principles, will enable them to unfold the mystery of godliness, and several of them profess to believe in the call of God to the work, they seem to have overlooked the fact that “the husbandman that laboreth must first be partaker of the fruits.” They are evidently not willing to entrust their education in the school of Christ; that school will not allow the inventions of graceless men a place in quickening the dead, opening the eyes of the blind, and raising up the bowed down, but attributes this indispensable work alone to him who has said, “I will work, and who shall let it?” “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
I wonder whether these theological preachers have ever thought of what the Lord says, by the prophet, “Behold I am against the prophet that steals my word, every man from his neighbor!” Again, “They are the prophets of the deceit of their own hearts, prophesying lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; but he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully; what is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord.”
Brother Beebe, it would be an endless job to attempt to follow the errorists of our day in all their windings and twistings, their means and instrumentalities, their assumption of names wholly inconsistent, with the practice of those who legitimately bear them. They remind me of the saying attributed to the late Lorenzo Dow, “You can, and you can’t; you will, and you wont; you’ll be damned if you do, and you’ll be damned if you don’t.” They are very bitter against those they call Campbellites, and the assertion in the “Western Recorder,” over the signature of “Old School,” which charges that “extremes have met, that the Particulars and Campbellites both deny regeneration and the new birth,” reminds me of what the apostle Paul said, “Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?” I know of no denomination more inconsistent than those claiming extra benevolence, who conclude the furnishing them the money, for from “twenty-five to fifty cents per head, they can evangelize the world,” thus claiming to do that which our God has given us no warrant to believe he intends shall be done. They have manifested a bitterness and unrelenting spirit of persecution of those who, in the absence of divine authority to sustain their moneyed schemes, oppose them, which, it would seem, ought to open the eyes of those they have duped.
It may be thought by some that I have been too severe in some things I have written. I would invite such to examine the sacred text, the word of the living God, and the injunction of the apostle, “Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.” “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Has not that time come? Why do their scribblers hide behind some covering when they assail personally those whom they dare not meet in argument in open day? The reason may be found in the text, “He that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds be reproved.” They claim the name Baptist, but have left the practice of real Baptists, both ancient and modern, in bringing the uncircumcised into the congregation of the Lord, then setting at naught the divine command. It is true, they immerse, but I very much doubt whether the administrator or the subject be such as the gospel recognizes. The truth is, brother Beebe, Universalists are more consistent than they. Their frequent change of name – first Regular Baptists, next United Baptists, then Missionary, and lastly Old School – should arouse suspicion.
Our adversaries have charged that we are opposed to education, because we will not consent that the literature and science of this world, however extended it may be, can qualify the men of this world to comprehend the mystery of the kingdom of God. But have they considered that “the world by wisdom knew not God,” or that the “natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned?” We esteem learning highly valuable to the inhabitants of this world, preparing them to understand and appreciate the blessings of civil, social and political rights and immunities. In this latter sense we are, and have been, the decided advocates of learning.
It is more than forty years since we first met and exchanged salutations with, if I am not mistaken, between twenty and thirty ministers, all of whom have passed away, but you and myself. I desire to thank God that the affection and christian fellowship and confidence formed then has remained unbroken on my part. That there may have been a difference of opinion between us on some points, is possible, but never that interrupted the cordial relations between us.
The quotations I have made in the foregoing communications, are from memory; it would tax my eye too heavily to compare them with the word of God, to test their correctness; I feel confident I have given the substance.
Faithfully your brother and companion in tribulation, and defense of the truth,
Thomas P. Dudley.