Harrisburg, Fayette Co., Ia., Jan. 17, 1847.
Brother Beebe: – My communications to you have been few and poor, which I suppose may account for their not appearing in the SIGNS. I had concluded to leave that valuable periodical to more able and learned pens; to such as could write more acceptable and more to edification. I should not have written those communications which were rejected, but for the urgent request of the afflicted and misrepresented brethren who were at that time barred out of the meeting houses by locks, bolts, rails, law trials, and mobs, by the Means party or faction. Brethren were oppressed and persecuted, and their names were cast out as evil, their doctrine misrepresented and denounced as heresy, while slander and detraction like a mountain torrent was poured on them, felt a desire to see themselves righted before their own scattered brethren and sisters, so that they might not be led, by the influence of misrepresentation, to reject them. It was under these circumstances I was induced to forward the communications. Some murmured, some complained, and others believed that your pages were closed against us. I supposed that you thought my letters so imperfect that other communications would better suit and edify your readers, and better subserve the design of your paper. I now send you a little money, for subscribers, and submit this sheet to your unbiased disposal.
The Means Party on Whitewater, have now become a party distinct from all others; they have lost all union, communion, fellowship and Christian correspondence with all other people on earth. The Campbellites, Missionaries, and all sorts of Arminians claim them as having departed from the Old Regular Baptist doctrine; these all generally say that they are not candid when they deny that they have so changed; yet as the change is all in favor of Arminianism, and they manifest a degree of malevolence and rancor against the Old School Baptists, such as no Arminian of any other name or order have ever manifested, (at least in the Western States,) many of these cordially patronize the Means doctrine, for they were always their own; and they are much pleased to find such zealous and numerous accessions to their ranks, especially as this accession comes from ranks of the Old, unchangeable Baptists; a sect every where spoken against, and hated by all. But the division is now complete, and the Old Baptists are enjoying a greater union and stronger confidence and warmer sense of fellowship and brotherly reciprocity than has ever before been manifested in this part of the world. In this we greatly rejoice; for we have found, as in all other cases, that, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” I have visited six associations during the months of August and September; viz: Whitewater, Lebanon, and Conn’s Creek in Indiana, Miami, in Ohio, Salem in Kentucky, and the Wabash District, partly in Indiana and partly in Illinois. Many ministering brethren from many corresponding associations in the four States were in attendance at these meetings, and yet not one discordant note nor jarring Ashdod sound was heard to grate upon the ear; but Christ and Him crucified, and Salvation by sovereign free grace, was the unbroken theme of all; and in the business department, all was peace and harmony. Such seasons are long to be remembered with gratitude to God, and unshaking confidence and love in the Truth, to the brotherhood.
Myself, with all the brethren here who read the SIGNS, were greatly delighted and edified with your able defense of the Bible Truth, in reply to our old friend and esteemed brother Deacon I. Sperry [an obstinate Means advocate]. You have done your duty, as a faithful brother, toward him and the cause of Truth. When you read his letters and mark his course, you have a fair sample of the whole party with us. They will with one breath say they believe as we do, and with the next breath try to show that we are entirely wrong in every point; and try to make both earth and heaven blush at our folly. I have been worn out with such duplicity, or as Paul called it, feigned words. I have noticed one great error at the base of their whole fabric, which they take as granted, and with a sort of triumph, infer their whole theory: They state it thus: – “If the Spirit of God is in the word, written or preached, and in, with or by that word or proclamation, Christians are comforted, fed, built up and instructed, the same Spirit, in, with, by, or through the same word can and does quicken the dead sinner. They seem not acquainted with the Word that was in the beginning with God, and was God. Now my brother, we deny their whole position, and call for the proof. Whoever read in the Book of Inspiration, that the Holy Spirit in any case ever came by, with, or through the gospel proclamation, either to comfort the saints or quicken the dead sinner? We read of the Gospel’s coming in the Holy Ghost, but not the Holy Ghost coming in the Gospel! We read of the apostle’s preaching with the Holy Ghost! And we read that Jonah was in the Whale’s belly; but this cannot prove that the Whale was in Jonah’s belly! So, where it is said, “Our gospel came unto you, not in word only, but in power, and in much assurance; the Holy Ghost was in the prophets, in Moses, and in the apostles, and qualified them to write and speak, and the same Spirit is in the hearts of every creature that sees, hears, feels, or understands the Gospel or that has one spiritual idea of what the Gospel contains. So the Spirit that comforts the Christian, is in him, giving him life, sight, hearing, and understanding in spiritual things; and to such a spiritual subject, having the light and demonstration of the Spirit within his renewed mind, our Gospel comes with the power and demonstration of that Truth, and much assurance, and is enjoyed by the believer as the result; but not as the cause. The Spirit in the heart, prepares that heart to hear and to understand the Gospel to be brought to it; and the Gospel comes in its own native simplicity and exhibits the glorious realities of which it treats, to the spiritual perception of the opened eyes and ears, and understanding heart of him in whom the Spirit has taken His abode. The Spirit comes not in the proclamation, neither in the one case nor in the other; but as we have seen, the Gospel comes in the Spirit. If any thing could expose the fallacy of the Means doctrine, surely their own arguments would expose it. They tell us that the Spirit quickens the dead sinner, and comforts the saint, in, with, or through, the word; not that the word quickens, but the Spirit comes with its sovereign quickening power, in, or through the Gospel, and in the same breath they tell us that the same Spirit sometimes comes, for the same purpose, in, or through wicked men, or poisonous reptiles, spiders, serpents, false teachers, balls, parties of dissipation, pitching of quoits, &c., and of John Bunyan’s being quickened by means of a wicked woman. I have all of Bunyan’s works, and his experience, as written by himself, but he makes no such statement. He mentions a reproof which he received from a vile woman, that stung him sorely at one time during his alternate spells of repentance and out-breaking; but not as his first awakening nor his being comforted, and I pronounce the statement a gross misrepresentation of the experience of that o’d soldier of the cross. But if balls, gambling, quoits, swearing, false teachers, reptiles and vile women are heavens’ appointed means in many cases, for the regenerating Spirit to go in or through, to quicken the elect; they have this Holy Spirit going in and through spiders, ants, snakes, vile women, dissipation, quoits and almost all kinds of abominable practices, and reptiles, as well as in and through the Gospel. If this theory were true, would it not be as consistent to pray that God would send His Spirit to us, in or through some of these appointed means, and so attend the dance, the gambling table, or the society of women, as the means which heaven has in many cases appointed in and through which the Holy Ghost is to come and quicken dead sinners and regenerate the elect; and with the same devout prayer, on the next day attend the preaching of the Gospel as another means which heaven has ordained for the same purpose: and as we do not know in which of His appointed means the Spirit will come in our own case, should we not continue in the use of all these appointed means? This is the legitimate conclusion from so absurd a position. Who can relate before a Gospel church that they were quickened to divine life by an ant, or spider, or loose woman? Every child of grace under the teaching of the Spirit would tremble at so presumptuous and blasphemous a thought! No doubt many a poor mourning sinner in whom the Spirit has exerted His quickening power has looked on reptiles, bands, and even on dissipated crowds of vile men and women, and felt that his case was the worse than any of them, but the Holy Ghost never taught such that the Spirit came in, or with, or through any of them to quicken, or to comfort them. The quickening Spirit may enter the soul while at the gambling table, or in the ball room, or pitching quoits; but never comes in or through any of them. This work is a birth and the agency of this birth is the Spirit of life. Where then is the evidence that when the Spirit quickens the sinner during a sermon or came in or through the sermon, or the preaching?
I once said publicly that the Means doctrine was of the devil, and that it was the root of every error, ancient and modern, that ever troubled the church or deluded the world. And the same assertion I still make, although it has been trumpeted against me. I am fully sustained by 2 Corinthians xi:3, “But I fear lest by any means, as the tempter beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your mind should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Mark the words, any means; – no odds of what sort. The tempter preached means to Eve, by, or in, or through which he said she should be made wise as gods, knowing good and evil. This was the first means sermon – the devil preached it himself; – Eve was beguiled by it, and so sin with its train of evils was poured into our ruined race, and so be the means doctrine and a means preacher, every error that ever has or ever shall trouble the church or deluded the world, was introduced. This preacher having succeeded so well at his first attempt, has steadily pursued his use of means, has sent abroad a multitude of means preachers as his instruments. One of them, a vile woman, too, was sent under a bribe, by a wicked man, to deceive David with the means doctrine; and she preached to him that God had appointed means whereby His banished should not be expelled from him; and I have heard several of the means preachers on this text, laboring to confirm her doctrine. But David detected her and her accomplice, notwithstanding all their hypocrisy. Not however, discouraged at this failure, we find that “a wonderful and horrible thing has happened in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, &c., my people love to have it so.” After all this, and much more like it, is it a wonder that Paul should warn the church against all sorts of means, as in 2 Thess. Ii: 3, “Let no man deceive you by any means?” The Means party will still work by and through, and succeed in the use of means; this is evident from Revelations xiii. 14, “And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth, by the means of these miracles which he had power given him to do in the sight of the beast.” Now I have proved, by positive Scripture, that the tempter preached the first means sermon; that by or through the means Eve was beguiled, and sin with all its train of vices and errors of every complexion that ever deluded our bewildered race, was introduced; that through, by, or with the means doctrine David was tried; the priests ruled, and the second beast is to deceive the inhabitants of the earth; and this whole train, reaching from the first error on the earth, throughout its entire history, through the reign of the second or last beast, in Revelation. And the very word means, yes the very word, denoting the party, is the name by which the apostle warns all Christians to reject it and “Let no man,” good or bad, “deceive you by any means.” This word means so constantly used for false teaching and heresy, is never once used for, or in connection with the preaching of the true Gospel, or its effects, or the quickening work of the Holy Spirit.
I have slipped aside from my main design in this letter, into a kind of dissertation on the means issue: my intention was to write on the plan of grace, in the salvation of sinners; but now my sheet is nearly full. Salvation by free grace, as taught by inspiration, and sweetly experienced by the heirs of heaven, presents a theme which excludes all boasting on the part of the sinner saved by Christ. It exalts the Saviour and fills the soul with gratitude to God as nothing else can compare. It humbles our pride, saves us from a reliance on self, and moves us to obedience; it opens a sure door of hope to the unworthy and helpless poor and is gloriously adapted to the case of the ruined, guilty and self condemned sinner. It bestows the boon of Eternal life in union with Christ upon the perishing and dying rebel, and sustains the weary, doubting and heavy laden pilgrim, when pressed down with fears and trials. It points him to an incorruptible inheritance and leads him through and defends him from every danger, and finally crowns him with glory at the end of his journey. Salvation by grace is contrasted with the vague notion of Freewill believers in a salvation by works, or approval by sinners, to show that the one excludes the other. The one ends where the other begins, so that it is wholly of the one, or of the other, and cannot be by a mixture of the two. Where means, instruments, conditions, terms, offers, efforts, or any human will or virtue are required to secure the end, or in any way to make the work effectual, or earn blessings from on high, grace is totally excluded. Good works, as fruits of inward grace do evince, externally the reign of grace within; but this grace reigns by Jesus Christ, who works in the believer both the will and to do of His good pleasure, and by no other agency. See that poor, trembling self-condemned sinner? He stands on the slippery verge of keen despair, guilt has made his quivering lips. Burning Sinai thunders over his devoted head. Hell beneath yawns to receive his guilty soul at its fall. He has heard of means, but none help his case now. The works and conditions offered him, but however much his ruin hopes may have been at times flattered by such sophistry, it has now dwindled into nothingness; when brought to the awful reality of his own impotency and just demerit. Nothing but grace can save him now, and to grace alone his tearful eye is turned as the last and only alternative. Grace, grace, all sovereign and free, plucks him from the slippery brink, shows him the flames of Sinai, quenched by cleaning and atoning blood, and all its thunderings stilled by the voice of Him who is the end of the law for righteousness, saying, I am thy Righteousness and thy Salvation. This sinner feels his load of guilt removed and now can sing:
“O, to grace, how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be;
Let Thy goodness like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.”
Yours, in Truth
Signs of the Times
Volume 15, No. 5.
March 1, 1847