Suckurunny, N. J., April 26, 1843.
ELDER BEEBE: – If you think the cause of truth will be promoted by giving the enclosed a place in the Signs, as you proposed, do so. Gov. Pennington was invited to attend a total abstinence meeting in Trenton, and an attempt was made to entrap him to sign the pledge. You will observe how fiercely “Iota” led off in his first communication, but so soon as he was required to adhere to the Bible, how short he dropped the subject, as all others do who attempt to advocate that side of the question.
Controversy conducted through the columns of the “Jerseyman.”
“MR HULL: – In your paper of last week you say, ‘Gov. Pennington has gotten himself into a bad box.’ If Gov. Pennington is a professed follower of the Lord and Saviour he has a valid excuse for not associating himself with those who denounce as traitors to the cause of Temperance all who will not follow, without deviation, their yoke and regulations. I know of no well founded objection to worldly persons joining in society association to discountenance and put down any sinful practice, but the Word of God denies to his ‘chosen people’ the privilege of amalgamating with them; the Church being the only association of the saints recognized in the Scriptures, Christ says to his disciples, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” John xvii. 9. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” &c., 2 Cor. vi. 14-16. – “Know ye now that the foundation of this world is enmity with God,” James iv. 4. Indeed, the whole record of his Word distinctly draws the line between the world and his Church. Every professed child of grace has publicly pledged himself to a Temperance Constitution as found in the New Testament, which enjoins temperance in all things, and if this pledge is insufficient, to keep him in the line of his duty, still he can find no authority for resorting to humanly devised schemes. The world being much given to profanity as well as drunkenness, suppose it should be deemed expedient to form an anti-swearing society, would a professed child of God feel it to be his duty to unite with such society, signing a pledge not to take the name of the Lord in vain? or an anti-thieving society, pledging himself not to steal? Such a course would surely be dishonoring and distrusting God in his purpose and promises to sustain his children without resorting to an arm of flesh. I am aware that such views are not in harmony with the popular opinions of the day, but if Gov. Pennington entertains the bible view of the subject, he has manifested a becoming independence in not sacrificing for popularity.
“MR. HULL: – Disappointed at not finding ‘Franklin’ in your last paper, for I search for ‘Cold Water’ in it, I found something of a different nature, it is true, but which nevertheless answered for a quid to chew upon. I allude to the communication signed ‘W.’ Viewing it as an argument in defence of Gov. Pennington ‘in his bad box’ my first impression was that the Governor might well exclaim, ‘Save me from my friends and I will take care of my enemies.’ With his excellency I have at present nothing to do – he can defend himself; my object is to examine the ground of defence taken by ‘W.’ viz: – that a profession of religion is a valid excuse for refusing to join a temperance society, and that by such connection every ‘professed child of grace would be dishonoring and distrusting God in his purpose and promises to sustain his children without resorting to an arm of flesh.’ High ground is here taken, and if tenable, all such professors of religion would, indeed, be in a dangerous position.
I have endeavored to examine with candor the premises on which this conclusion is based, and of the three quotations cited by ‘W,’ have considered that from 2 Cor. the strongest: ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers’ – and propose briefly to consider it. The church at Corinth was in circumstances differing widely from any in our day. That city was eminent for wealth and luxury. The altar of Venus was established by law, and every abomination which the mind can conceive was the natural result. Its morals were poisoned until it became the most gay, dissipated, corrupt, and, ultimately, the most effeminate and feeble portion of Greece. An infant church, thus situated, was peculiarly exposed to danger and temptation, and reference to 1 Cor. v. proves that the tempter had not labored in vain. Under these circumstances, the injunction above quoted, was given. Nothing is more clear, to my mind, than its obvious spirit – that they should not enter into alliance with the wicked around them, in any things which were improper for Christians, or injurious to the church. Such were all sinful pleasures and arfrocements (?) and business which could possibly identify them with unbelievers, or which, would be at variance with their principles and profession. In short, they were not to be partakers in evil.
Now, is it not straining the point to interpret all such passages into a precept forbidding every and all intercourse or “association” with unbelievers? – Can such construction harmonize with the precepts and practice of our Savior, who was the ‘friend of publicans and sinners’ – who went about doing good – who commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and whose disciples were directed to do good to all men as they have opportunity?
But what has been the practice of Christian churches in this matter – union with unbelievers? Where is the church that has made it a cardinal point, in erecting a house of worship, in sustaining the ministry, or selecting trustees? When has the church refused such do-operation in sending the Bible, or tract, or the missionary, to the destitute?
Carry out this principle and oppose all such associations for good, and what becomes of all the benevolent movements of the day? nay more, the radical doctrine of ‘W’ would exclude Christians from all sympathy, and communion, and intercourse in the civil and social relations of life. They could not intermingle with unbelievers in business of any kind, nor in any of the innocent and rational enjoyments of life. How then are the unbelievers to be reclaimed, while shut out, isolated from the society of the godly, and to be treated as vipers that must be shunned in every path of life?
But the shoe pinches hardest, I suspect, on the point of signing the temperance pledge. ‘W’ is not the author of the doctrine he advocates – that ‘all efforts for the moral reformation of mankind should emanate from the church.’ This has been promulgated before, and both the church and the world have cause for devout thanksgiving to God that it has found so little favour. Although it claims high parentage, was published as ‘by authority’ – the temperance cause, against which the edict was hurled, has gone on conquering and to conquer – having enlisted under its banner portions of every known Christian denomination, – yea, even of that whence the anathema sprung. But the church had been, or should have been engaged in the suppression of intemperance ever since it or the church existed, and how much was accomplished? Instead of diminishing, it increased with fearful rapidity. Elders, Deacons and private members of the church manufactured, and sold, and drank of the drunkard’s drink. – Even the clergy were not uncontaminated; many of them fell victims to the very vice which the church was, or should have been endeavoring to exterminate. It became the giant vice, overshadowing all others by its alarming prevalence – all efforts to suppress it failed, and why? Simply because its seductive influence commenced at a point where the church could not reach, and when once fixed, its victims were either so paralyzed by its power, as to be insensible to the truth, or, as was generally the case, they were not often found within the sacred walls. In this condition they would doubtless have still remained, had the doctrine of ‘W’ and others, been current in the Christian world. But fortunately it was not; the principle of association was adopted; these unfortunates were convinced of their error and follies, were encouraged by example to abandon those habits which induced and sustained intemperance, and thus became temperate men – prepared to listen with benefit to the teachings of the sanctuary. – Thus the temperance cause has been auxiliary to the church, and has been blessed as the instrument of diffusing, not only happiness and comfort amongst thousands of once wretched families, but joy in heaven over sinners converted to God.
But why did not Christ and his apostles organize temperance societies? If Corinth was such a corrupt place they surely were needed there. In answer to such queries, I have only to say, that our Saviour has not condescended to give man the reasons for every action of his life, or for the precepts he enjoined. It is enough for us to know, that the honor of his Father and the happiness of man were the aim of all his labors; and if we, in observance of those rules which are given for our guidance, can be instrumental in rescuing our fellow men from certain destruction, by pursuing the plan of association, I, for one, feel it my duty to do so, and after reading Romans, chapter 14, dare not to do otherwise. In regard to the query above, I may venture, however, to say farther, that we have no proof of the existence of intemperance there to any thing like the degree we have seen it. We have no proof that it existed in those churches, as it has in our day, involving priests, deacons and communicants in its deadly embrace. On the contrary, the silence of the Epistles on this point is strong presumptive evidence that such was not the case.
The hypotheses of ‘W’ on ‘anti-swearing and thieving societies,’ and the duty of professors, may be briefly answered by saying, that if these vices were as seductive and destructive, in their general influence on society and the church, and as much beyond the reach of all other means as intemperance has proved, the same means would be justifiable, necessary, and, in my humble opinion, obligatory on the ‘professed child of God.’
“MR. HULL: – I think your correspondent ‘Iota’ manifests very little faith in the promises of the Lord in regard to his ‘chosen people’ which were ‘created in Christ Jesus before the found of the world,’ when he is not willing to abide by the infallible rule left on record for their guidance; but must call in the aid of worldly wisdom to add to the number determined upon by Jehovah himself in eternity, according to his own purpose and grace. He seems not to realize that all things are ever present with God, and that the gospel rule contains all that could be requisite for the government of his church to the end of time, and that man, not able to discover its perfection, yet can make no improvement upon it, while at the same time he admits that ‘Our Saviour has not condescended to give man the reasons for every action of his life, or the precepts enjoined,’ and asserts that ‘The church at Corinth was in circumstances differing widely from any in our day,’ as though the Lord was so short sighted as not to foresee all the evil that would exist in the world, and consequently could not provide remedies to meet it. He asks, ‘But what has been the practice of Christian churches in this matter – union with unbelievers?’ In answer, the modern practice has been to adopt the schemes and inventions of men, rather than follow the injunctions of the Redeemer. But the practice of what claims to be ‘the church’ is not good evidence, when we have an unerring pattern to refer to. It is these anti-christian practices that I cannot subscribe to. Again he says, ‘When has the church refused such co-operation in sending the Bible, or tract, or missionary to the destitute?’ To prove the validity of one dereliction of duty, by resorting to another, is in my view very bad logic. Where but in the invention of man can be found any authority for the saints forming such union? Certainly not in the gospel rule. That rule directs the church to look to the LORD for laborers to spread the gospel, but man says she must depend upon the world in society associations. Upon what foundation are such societies based? The answer is money! the love of which is the root of all evil. Of what are they composed? Of all grades of moral character that will pay a stipulate sum to become a member, or life director; so that the blasphemer, gambler or drunkard exercises an influence in proportion to the money paid. For the effect of such a system, let one of ‘Iota’s’ own witnesses testify: Doctor Baird, a missionary lately returned from Europe, states ‘That although in Germany there were, as near as could be ascertained under existing difficulties, 15,000, and possibly 20,000 nominally Protestant clergymen; yet not more than 1,500 could be considered as evangelical converted men. They were men of good morals, who exerted a moral influence and restrained in some measure the population from the gross iniquity into which many might plunge in were it not for their influence. Still they could not be considered as devoted to the cause of religion from any true sense of its value. Their profession was their means of support, and for that purpose they held it. These offices were held by men appointed by government.’ I know of no objection to preachers being appointed by government, that will not apply to their appointment by an education, or missionary society, constituted as they now are. One is no more authorized by scripture than the other, and if the effect of one is to produce men ‘not devoted to the cause of religion from any sense of its value,’ can we look for any thing from the other? Will ‘Iota’ contend that such a system is in conformity with the doctrines of the New Testament? I should think not, when he says ‘Nothing is more clear to my mind than the obvious spirit – that they [the saints] should not enter alliances with the wicked around them in any things which are improper for Christians, or injurious to the church.’ Is it not ‘improper’ for professed Christians to disobey God? He also says the ‘disciples were directed to do good to all men as they had opportunity,’ but he seems to forget that good must be done according to God’s revealed will, and not in direct opposition to it. There are many instances on record where good has been attempted in the same way, but always failed. Old Sara tried it, and the result of every humanly devised scheme will prove abortive, as in her case. But to follow the doctrine of the Bible does not ‘exclude christians from all sympathy, and communion, and intercourse in the civil and social relations of life.’ Every christian is viewed in a two-fold capacity, for both of which ample provision is made: he is commanded to obey magistrates and the civil authorities, when it does not conflict with his christian duties; but to obey God, rather than man – ‘to obey is better than sacrifice.’
“MR. HULL: – Your last paper was looked for with much interest, as I expected from ‘W’ an argument on the point of dispute, viz: ‘Union of christians with unbelievers’ – but when I found one fourth of his communication made up of inferences altogether unwarranted, and much of the remainder consisting of assertions without proof, and mere negations without reasons, I was disappointed indeed.
‘W’s’ position is at variance with the practice and belief of the great body of christians and christian churches. He denounces a course which has received the sanction of the wise and good for many years. His ground should be maintained by strong and irrefragable argument. He should remember that the ipse dixit of us anonymous scribblers is not law, and more especially where our dicta conflict with long established usages.
His sweeping charges against the churches of ‘Adopting the schemes and inventions of men, rather than following the injunctions of the Redeemer,’ and against all those benevolent societies of the day, which, under God, have done, and are still doing so much for the extension of the kingdom of Christ, are of such a nature as to forbid any reply from me. If ‘W’ will resume his position, that a professing christian cannot, consistently with that profession, join a temperance society, I am ready to meet him, and if I fail to defend my side of the question, will abide the result. I am open to conviction, and if wrong, wish to be set right.
MR. HULL: – In your last paper, ‘Iota’ says, ‘‘W’s’ proposition as at variance with the practice and belief the great body of christians and christian churches.’ He denounces a course which has (?) the unction of the weak of this world, of which Paul tells us ‘not many are called,’ (1 Cor. i. 26) and the good of many years. His ground should be maintained by strong and irrefragable argument. He should remember that the ‘ipse dixit of us anonymous scribblers is not law, and more especially where our dicta conflict with long established wages.’ Now I object in tote to the ‘practice of christian churches’ or ‘long established usages’ being made to supercede the ‘law’ as revealed in the sacred word: and that ‘law’ only, am I willing to receive as evidence in what relates to christian duty. The apostle says ‘believe not every spirit; but try the spirits whether they are of God,’ 1 John i. 4. This can be done only by appealing to the revealed word of God, and not to the ‘practice of the churches’ by which may be proved any and every doctrine, as error has been creeping into, and being ‘practiced’ by the church from its earliest establishment upon earth; and if it ‘be of men, it will come to naught.’ Acts v. 28. ‘Iota’ will not pretend that the ‘practice’ or doctrine of the great variety of denominations of professing christians is in conformity to the rule laid down in the New Testament; yet they each claim to be ‘the church;’ but which branch is to be considered orthodox? To acknowledge them all is impossible. And again Paul tells the church that if any attempt to substitute any doctrine for the gospel he preached ‘let him be accursed,’ see Gal. i. 8. – And Christ being away of false doctrine (no matter whether ‘practiced’ by Mormon, Millerite, Presbyterian, or any other professor of religion) charges his people ‘If any may shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not,’ Matt. xxiv. 23. ‘Ye shall know them [false teachers] by their fruits,’ Mark vii. 16. And the Apostle says, ‘I will show thee my faith by my works,’ James iii. 18. ‘Iota’ says ‘If ‘W’ will resume his position that a professing christian cannot, consistently with the profession, join a temperance society, I am ready to meet him.’ Now my position was, and still is opposition to the system in general, as anti-christian, not sanctioned by the sacred word; not only embracing temperance societies, but missionary, education, tract, and every other society, (excepting that recognized in the Word of God,) avowedly ‘for the extension of the Kingdom of Christ,’ and I ask ‘Iota’ to produce scripture authority, chapter and verse, or acknowledge that there is no such authority within the lids of the Bible, for a professing christian to join any such institution based upon a money qualification for membership: this, the only admissible evidence, he has not yet attempted, but has not yet attempted, but builds his whole argument on the ‘practice of the church,’ which subjects all adopting it to be ‘carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men.’ Eph. iv. 14. As a test of the truth of his assertion that the ‘benevolent societies’ have done and are still doing so much ‘for the extension of the Kingdom of Christ’ I will quote another of his witnesses, (both advocating the same system) a Roman Catholic, bishop Fenwick of Cincinnati, agent of the pope in that region. He says to his employers, ‘You will see, too, how much God is disposed to favor the work of missions among the Indians, as he has so ordered it that the government of the United States manifests unusual favor towards the exertions which pious souls (all missionaries claim to be pious, no matter what doctrine they teach) of the Austrian empire are making for the propagation of the faith. In this unusual grant of money by the United States government we behold the triumph of truth.’ – And speaking of the Indians, he says, ‘They have steadfastly resisted all the efforts of the Protestants to proselyte them, and retain almost universally such favorable impressions of our holy religion that one is tempted to say these men of nature feel, by a kind of instinct, where the true Christianity is to be found.’ This is the evidence from one branch of ‘the church’ out of many hundreds. If ‘Iota’s’ views are correct, they have done much ‘for the extension of the kingdom of Christ;’ having made 200,000 proselytes in the United States during the past year. This is precisely his mode of doing ‘good to all men’ and ‘extending the kingdom of Christ;’ but in my view of the subject, the ‘practice’ by Roman Catholics stands upon the same footing as that of Protestants, as it is not doing ‘good’ to any heathen nation to teach them error in religion, in one form father than another: the name is nothing, for all is error that it not truth, by whomsoever ‘practised,’ although all is done in the name of the Lord. But Christ says, ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have I not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you.’ – Matt. vii. 22,23. But after the use of all these new fangled means to hurry forward the Mellenium, there is one lamentable fact to be considered, that vice and crime are increasing in a ratio with the conversions to the popular religion of the day, at least in this country.
“MR. HULL: – * * * ‘Iota’ required of me ‘strong and irrefragible’ proof to sustain my position, and I referred him to the unerring word of God as being such proof. I have from the first asked him for authority from the same source, for a professing christian to join any religious society based upon money, and he has throughout found it convenient to evade the question by adducing ‘the practice’ of the Roman Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and hundreds of other different denominations of ‘professing christians and christian churches,’ (each claiming to be ‘the church’ and using the same unscriptural means for ‘extending the kingdom of Christ,’) as sufficient evidence. I insist that his principle is not a tenable one upon scripture grounds, because it admits to a full participation of all the privileges and control as director, the most abandoned moral character, not excepting satan himself, upon paying the requisite sum of money.
Unless he is disposed to furnish the required proof, from ‘the law and the testimony,’ instead of relying upon ‘long established usages,’ I cannot consent to discuss the subject further.
(Below is part of Gilbert Beebe’s Editorial of the same Number.)
DISCUSSION OF “W” AND “IOTA.” – We have copied from the “Jerseyman” a discussion on the subject of Total Abstinence societies, between our old correspondent “W” and some anonymous writer, whose articles are signed “Iota.” In addition to the well applied argument of our friend “W,” we will offer a few remarks on the extravagant assumption of “Iota,” that the modern Total Abstinence society has not only been auxiliary to the church, but also instrumental in making a very important improvement in the regions of glory. This assumption will be found in the closing sentence of his second paragraph, on the middle column of page 108, viz: –
“Thus the Temperance cause has been auxiliary to the church, and has been blessed as the instrument of diffusing not only happiness and comfort among thousands of once wretched families, BUT JOY IN HEAVEN OVER SINNERS CONVERTED TO GOD”!!!
However indefinite and vague “Iota’s” idea of a church may be, for he is unable to inform “W” which of all the numerous denominations that claim that name is the church to which he has made allusion, (and to which these modern humanly invented institutions have been assistants, or auxiliaries, and whose approval of them is in his estimation more important than what God has revealed in the scriptures,) it is very evident that by the term heaven, as he has used it in distinction from its application to what he denominates the church, he means that heaven where the saints shall ultimately surround the throne of God and worship in his presence forever. Of this heaven Christ has informed us that it was prepared for the sheep at his right hand from the foundation of the world. But “Iota” is at issue with the sovereign judge of quick and dead upon this point, and that this heaven is now to be undergoing some improvements through the agency of men. If new joys are excited or produced in heaven by the operations of newly invented societies, these new joys must certainly cause a change in the condition of glorified spirits, and the change of condition must be for the better or for the worse: if for the better, heaven was not perfect without them; if otherwise, heaven is imperfect with them. “Iota” is welcome to either horn of the dilemma.
If as “Iota” supposes, the joys of the saints in glory are regulated by the works and inventions of man, he is willing to ascribe to men a much greater power and control over heaven than he is willing to allow God to have over the affairs of earth. For he asserts that the church, (with all the grace given to her) has failed to secure that amount of good, which is now effected by the society for which he pleads. We suppose he intends, by the church, the church of God; but he is mistaken in regard to what constitutes the church of God, and applies the term to self-organized bodies, which are assisted by such auxiliaries as Total Abstinence societies. But the church of God leans only on the arm of her Beloved, The Lord alone is her Help and the strength of her salvation. In his inability to comprehend the church of God, “Iota” is not alone, for it is written, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – Should it ever be the happy lot of “Iota” to experience this gracious work, he will see the kingdom, and know that it is not composed of flesh and blood of meats and drinks, but righteousness and peace and joy, (not in what men are doing,) in the Holy Ghost.
To the demands of “W,” for scriptural authority to sustain the institution, “Iota” appeals to established opinions and sanction of the christian church, and that of the wise and good for many years; and the sweeping charges that the popular benevolent institutions of the day are schemes and inventions of men, rather than injunctions of the Redeemer, are of such a nature as to forbid a reply from “Iota.” But what does “Iota” discover in “W’s” rejection of any authority short of the scriptures, for the establishment of religious institutions which contemplate the essential improvement of heaven and earth, that so much shocks him as to forbid that he should reply? Perhaps “Iota” is unaccustomed to asking for, or giving scriptural precepts and examples for religious practices; but even in that case, if he can lay his finger on any portion of the divine record showing that the benevolent institutions of the day, as he calls them, are the injunctions of the Redeemer, ought be not for the information of others who have read the discussion to do so? If these institutions are enjoined by the Redeemer, such injunction must be found among his laws in the scriptures; and if not enjoined in the scriptures, they are inventions of men or devils. Iota is forbidden to reply much in the manner in which some of his ancient brotherhood were forbidden or unable to reply to the question whether the baptism of John was from heaven or of men. They could not tell without exposing their own guild. If they said of heaven they were convicted of opposition to an ordinance of God; but if they said Of men, they feared the people: therefore they said, as “Iota” virtually says, We cannot tell. Who is so stupid as to suppose for one moment that Iota would slip off in this pitiful manner if it were in his power to bring the least countenance from the bible in support of his favorite idols.
“Iota” charges “W” with leaving the grounds on which they joined issue: but this is a mere quibble; its utter destitution of justice will be seen by all who read the discussion. But if Iota really wishes publicly to discuss the question whether a professed christian can consistently with that profession join what is called a “Temperance” society, and will abide the decision of the word of God, let him appoint time and place, and he shall not want for a man to take the negative.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Signs of the Times
Volume 11, No. 14.
July 15, 1843