::R1191 : page 1::
VOL. XI. ALLEGHENY, PA., MARCH, 1890. NO. 4
Zion’s Watch Tower
HERALD OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE
TOWER PUBLISHING COMPANY
Arch Street, Allegheny, Pa., U.S.A.
C. T. RUSSELL, EDITOR.
TERMS OF SUBSCRIPTION
DOMESTIC,—Fifty cents a year in advance, by Draft, P.O. Money Order, or Registered letter.
FOREIGN,—Two shillings per year. Remit by Foreign Postal Money Order.
TO POOR SAINTS
This paper will be sent free to the interested of the Lord’s poor, who will send a card yearly requesting it. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat—yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” And you who have it—”Wherefore do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently—and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”—ISAIAH 55:1,2.
Entered as SECOND CLASS MAIL MATTER, at the Post Office, Allegheny, Pa.
::R1192 : page 1::
THE APRIL TOWER will contain articles in reply to certain questions on (1) the genuineness of the first clause of Rev. 20:5, and (2) “Then Cometh the End”—the period of Christ’s reign referred to in 1 Cor. 15:24-28; and (3) the period of Israel’s favor of which the Gospel age is the parallel or “double.”
SOME SEEM to fear to accept our offer to send the TOWER free of charge to those of the Lord’s people who will write stating their inability to pay, whether they promise payment in the future or not. To such we can say little more than we have already said, and say continually at the head of this column, except this:
If the Lord has so circumstanced you that you are too poor to pay for the TOWER you ought not to be too proud to say so; and the sooner you get rid of the false pride the better it will be for your own heart. In accepting our offer you are accepting the Lord’s grace—through those whom he has made stewards of his truth and the means to publish it. Our terms are such as he has arranged—”Ask, and ye shall receive.”
But do not send the addresses of others than yourselves unless it be for those who cannot write for themselves or of those to whom you desire us to send sample copies. Each who can must write for himself, just as God requires each to pray for himself.
Order all the sample TOWERS you can use judiciously, FREE. The January number is a good one for many.
::R1191 : page 1::
O.T. TRACTS, 10,000 PER MONTH FREE
The TOWER TRACT SOCIETY has decided to supply for the remaining ten months of this year 10,000 sample copies of the Old Theology Tracts per month, FREE, to brethren and sisters who are on the WATCH TOWER lists, and who desire to circulate more than they can afford to purchase, and who will promise that the number they request shall be carefully and judiciously used, one at a time. Order each month no more than you are sure you can use. This seems to be an excellent plan for providing the “hail.” Now let every one lay his plans wisely and prayerfully to make the best possible use of this generous provision. Those who cannot distribute tracts personally to advantage, may send in the addresses of such as would be interested. Address orders to TOWER TRACT SOCIETY.
::R1191 : page 1::
ABOUT POST-OFFICE BOXES
Many thanks, dear friends, for the trouble you have taken to send us a report of the Post-Office boxes. We did not intend so much trouble as some of you took. We merely meant that when next at the Post-Office in your own or any other city or town you would look over the boxes, make note of how the numbers run, and also of those which were apparently vacant and for rent. We do not want to rent any boxes, but to ascertain which numbers at each Post-Office are rented, that we may mail to each box-holder a sample of Old Theology Tracts.
Please send in reports from as many Post-Offices as possible. No danger of duplicates; we will watch that. A postal card will do, unless you are writing on other matters anyhow. All can help in this work, no matter how poor.
::R1192 : page 1::
THE ANNUAL MEMORIAL SUPPER
We need not here repeat the strong evidences that our Lord instituted his supper to be a yearly memorial of his death, as “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world”—and as the remembrancer of the antitype of the Passover. Old readers are familiar with these strong evidences, and new readers will find an abridged explanation, etc., in the WATCH TOWER for March, 1888; of which we have a few copies left which we will gladly supply them free.
We hope that all our readers—all who see clearly and appreciate the ransom—all who realize that the life of the spotless Lamb of God, the man Christ Jesus, was SUBSTITUTED for the life of Adam and his race, in payment of the penalty of sin—death—that we might in God’s due time be released from death and obtain everlasting life through him who “bought us with his own precious blood” (life); whom the Father raised from death in the divine nature—may be more zealous than ever to show forth their faith in the RANSOM as the foundation of all our hopes of resurrection and life. For the more others fall away from this central truth and the more they seek to undermine it and to teach that man is “falling upward” and needed no ransom, the more all who do see this truth clearly should “show forth” their faith in the precious blood and broken body of our Redeemer by obeying his dying words, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
So far as possible, meet with those of like precious faith—with those who do not despise God’s favor by counting the blood of Christ a common or ordinary thing, but see it to be the redemption price of the life of the world, as the Scriptures everywhere declare.
The date of the anniversary this year will be April 3rd, any time after 6 o’clock in the evening. This date corresponds to the day and hour at which our Lord and the apostles celebrated the first memorial supper. Yet, like all of the Lord’s commands to his church, it is not given as a law, accompanied by a penalty for violation or neglect. Like all of his commands it is an easy yoke; instead of carrying a penalty it should be esteemed a privilege, and our Lord merely says, “If ye love me, keep my commands.” So, then, we exhort all who know and love the Lord as their Redeemer to commemorate the ransom price which he gave—with others if you can, or alone if you have not that privilege.
So many of you as can do so, we most cordially invite to meet with the little company here in Allegheny. So far as possible you will be furnished lodging and breakfast without charge while here, at the homes of the brethren and sisters residing in and near the city; and for others who cannot be thus accommodated comfortable quarters at low prices will be arranged that the housekeepers be not overcharged and hindered from attending the meetings. Free lunch suppers will be arranged for, and good dinners will be supplied at a restaurant for 15 cents each. Thus the total expense to a visiting brother or sister will be but 60 cents for boarding for the four days of the meeting. But the arrangements for dinners and suppers are intended to apply equally to all—those who reside in this city as well as others—that all may be able to partake of the spiritual food and enjoy both spiritual and physical refreshment.
Get here on the evening of April 2nd or early on April 3rd, if possible. A general meeting will be held in the morning of April 3rd, beginning at 10 o’clock, and a baptism service in the afternoon. The celebration of the Lord’s Memorial supper will be held in the evening at 8 o’clock. The three days following will be devoted to Bible study, taking up whatever topics those in attendance may prefer. Come, beloved, with your hearts full of love to our great Redeemer and full of desire and prayer that you may both get good and do good by this communion with fellow members of the one body.
Let not the love of money prevent your coming and celebrating this supper. Think not of the few hours or few days it would take from other matters, or the few dollars that neglect of business might cost. Think rather of the privilege it affords of testifying to the Lord your love and appreciation of him and his great sacrifice on our behalf, and of the blessings of such a season of communion with saints.
EXCURSION RATES TO THE MEETING
Excursion rates are offered us by the railroads mentioned below. They cover almost all the territory from New England to the Mississippi River, from Canada to the Ohio River and West Virginia.
The reduction amounts to one-third off the regular rates. And as our privilege of having the excursion rates next year will depend somewhat upon the number who avail themselves of the privilege this year, it is our desire that as many as possible avail themselves of these privileges—those who live close by as well as those from afar. The reduction of fare will be made here at Pittsburg upon the purchase of your return tickets; but to get this reduction you must procure from the ticket agent where you start, when purchasing your ticket, a statement setting forth the fact that you have purchased such tickets at full-fare rates with the intention of attending the annual meeting of Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society. That paper, signed by our secretary here, will entitle you to the reduced rates on your home-bound trip, which must be over the same route by which you will come.
If your home is not on the line of any of the railroads mentioned below, you must count your excursion as beginning at the nearest station on one of these roads and must get your certificate and through ticket at that point. Buy tickets to either Pittsburg or Allegheny and on arrival come direct to our office—Bible House, Arch Street.
If possible inform us at once by postal card if you intend to come, that arrangements for your entertainment may be more definite and thus some confusion be avoided.
::R1192 : page 1::
LIST OF RAILROADS MAKING THE CONCESSION
Baltimore & Ohio, Baltimore & Potomac, Buffalo Rochester & Pittsburg, Camden & Atlantic, Central of New Jersey, Chesapeake & Ohio, Delaware & Hudson Canal Co., Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, Elmira, Cortland & Northern, Lehigh Valley, New York Central & Hudson River, New York, Lake Erie & Western, New York, Ontario & Western, Northern Central, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia & Erie, Philadelphia & Reading, Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore, Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg (except Phoenix Line,) Shenandoah Valley, Western, New York & Pennsylavnia, West Jersey, West Shore.
::R1192 : page 2::
Baltimore & Ohio, Canadian Pacfic, Chatauqua Lake, Chesapeake & Ohio, Chicago & Atlantic, Chicago & Eastern Illinois, Chicago & Grand Trunk, Chicago & West Michigan, Chicago, Detroit & Niagara Falls Short Line, Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis, Chicago, St. Louis & Pittsburg, Cincinnati & Muskingum Valley, Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton, Cincinnati, Jackson & Mackinaw, Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern, Cincinnati, Sandusky & Cleveland, Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan, Cincinnati, Washington & Baltimore, Cleveland & Canton, Cleveland & Marietta, Cleveland & Pittsburg, Cleveland & Western, Cleveland, Akron & Columbus, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & St. Louis, Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling, Columbus & Cincinnati Midland, Columbus & Eastern, Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo, Dayton & Union, Dayton, Fort Wayne & Chicago, Detroit & Cleveland Steam Nav. Co., Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee, Detroit, Lansing & Northern, Evansville & Terre Haute, Flint & Pere Marquette, Fort Wayne, Cincinnati & Louisville, Grand Rapids & Indiana, Grand Trunk (West of Toronto). Indiana, Illinois & Iowa, Indianapolis & Vincennes, Indianapolis, Decatur & Western, Jacksonville Southeastern, Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis, Kanawha & Ohio, Lake Erie & Western, Lake Erie, Alliance & Southern; Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, Louisville, Evansville & St. Louis, Louisville, New Albany & Chicago, Michigan Central, Midland, New York, Chicago & St. Louis, New York, Lake Erie & Western, Ohio & Missippi, Ohio & Northwestern, Ohio, Indiana & Western, Ohio River, Ohio Southern, Peoria, Decatur & Evansville, Pittsburg, Cincinnati & St. Louis, Pittsburg, Fort Wayne & Chicago, Pittsburg, Marion & Chicago, Saginaw Valley & St. Louis, Scioto Valley, Toledo & Ohio Central, Toledo, Ann Arbor & N. Michigan, Toledo, Columbus & Cincinnati, Toledo, Peoria & Western, Toledo, St. Louis & Kansas City, Valley. Vandalia Line (T.H.& I.) Wabash, Western New York & Pennsylavnia, Wheeling & Lake Erie.
Those availing themselves of the concession should apply for tickets and certificates at the offices of the above-named roads at least thirty minuites before train time.
Return tickets will be sold here to those holding certificates, at one-third the regular full fare.
::R1192 : page 2::
“REJOICE, AND BE EXCEEDING GLAD”
The Master warned us to expect just what we find—that men would say all manner of evil against us falsely for his sake. Ever since the subject of the ransom became the testing question among those walking in the light, and since the TOWER became the special champion of the cross, its editor has been the subject of slander, misrepresentation, slyly-put inferences and insinuations from the leaders of those who fell into the error of rejecting Christ’s death as the sin-offering substituted for the guilty race of Adam. Their object in this course is to undermine by prejudice what they fail to meet by fair reasoning and Scripture. Nor should we wonder that those who so set themselves upon a theory that they can conscientiously twist and turn the hundreds of Scripture statements relative to how our Lord Jesus bought us with his own precious blood, giving his life a ransom for ours, claiming these to mean the reverse of what they say, could just as conscientiously twist and turn and misconstrue and misrepresent our words and acts, if thereby they could hope to forward their no-ransom theories.
What shall we do about these attacks? We shall do as we have done in the past. We shall not render railing for railing, but leave the whole matter to him who saith, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” This is the example set us by our Lord and his most notable apostles. We shall not stoop to deal in personalities. The WATCH TOWER, thank God, has had and still has a nobler mission; it deals with Scripture
::R1193 : page 2::
and will continue to expound it, to demolish errors and false theories, showing up their inconsistencies; but it will not be drawn aside from this to petty personal quarrels, nor to honor those who bark at it in a manner, slanderously untrue, though under honeyed words.
The Lord’s promise should suffice us, dearly beloved; he says he will bring forth our righteousness as the light and our judgment as the noonday. (Psa. 37:5,6.) Let us, as instructed, rejoice, and be exceeding glad that we are counted worthy of misrepresentation for his sake—especially for loyalty to the very foundation principle of his holy religion—the ransom.
::R1193 : page 2::
EXTRACTS FROM INTERESTING LETTERS
TOWER TRACT SOCIETY—DEAR BRETHREN:—Your tract, “Protestants, Awake” has just fallen into my hands, and as I have been recently excommunicated from the Methodist Episcopal ministry and membership for protesting against ecclesiastical dogmas and denouncing the errors, superstitions, traditions and prelatical usurpations of authority, and declaring the “whole counsel of God” without reference to church creed, or Christless cast, I devoured it with avidity and delight. May the blessings of God speed it on its high and holy mission.
The time is rapidly coming, yea, now is, when we must contend earnestly for “the faith” once delivered to the saints, and “resist, even unto blood,” the son of perdition who as an angel of light, nay, as “God himself, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” This is not only true of the Papacy, but of Protestantism as well, as you suggest in your well-written tract.
The “abomination of desolation” is now “standing in the holy place.”
The depth to which an individual falls is determined by the height to which he has been exalted. The same is true of churches. The M.E. Church having been exalted to heaven in point of spirituality, and possibilities of holiness, is sinking under the weight of her worldliness and corruption to the uttermost hell. The worldliness of the churches here in this great West is alarming and appalling! Men of influence and wealth have been courted until they hold with an iron grip the balance of power, and dictate the policy, shape the administration, padlock the preacher, laugh at spirituality and frown down any attempt at true Christian effort.
The flood-gates of corruption have been opened, and socials, fairs, festivals, balls, theatricals, lotteries, grab-bags, broom brigades, tamborine drills, games, etc., have entered.
At first the devil came as an angel of light. “Oh we must have amusements, you know, to attract and hold the young people.” Yes, how plausible! Now he shows his hoofs and horns and is monarch of all he surveys.
What are the preachers doing? They are “prophesying smooth things” and crying “peace, peace,” “no evil shall befall you;” and this in the face of what God says, “I have set watchmen on thy walls, O Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace, day nor night. Ye that make mention of the Lord keep not silence.” “O my people, they who lead thee cause thee to err.” The preachers here are mostly of the time-serving, man-pleasing, salary-seeking class. They keep their hand on the public pulse and govern themselves accordingly.
The churches are rapidly becoming centres for the fun-loving, fashion-displaying, mutual admiration classes. The consequence is, they are as impotent as an infant to successfully grapple with the mighty moral, social, political and economic problems pressing upon us for solution. The tides of immorality, worldliness, avarice, intemperance, profanity and the social vice are coming in like a flood upon us, as resistless as the waters in the Conemagh Valley.
But thanks be unto God forever and ever, we have the promise that “the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” “The Lamb shall overcome them.” “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” “Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Now thanks be unto God who always causeth us to triumph.” “No weapon formed against us shall prosper.” “Glory to God in the highest.”
Enclosed please find amount to pay for “The Plan of the Ages” and “The Time is at Hand.”
Also please send me 100 copies of the tract, “Protestants, Awake!” Also, sample copy of all the tracts you have in stock. Yours in the war, J. T. M.__________.
DEAR BRETHREN:—I enclose a P.O. order for $18 for books ordered. I see strong, convincing evidence of the guidance of the Spirit in the work in which the Tract Society is engaged.
Its low prices, its free distribution to the poor, its uncompromising spirit with error, its independence of all sects and isms, its sole reliance on God for success, its boldness to attack error wherever it exists regardless of consequences, which in all probability will be bitter opposition, or worse; its strict fidelity to God’s Word, its reasonableness, and I might as well say everything about the enterprise seems to bear the impress of genuineness and is all convincing, to those who will investigate the matter, that it is what it claims to be—the truth as revealed in the Bible.
I am surprised at the indifference I find everywhere manifested on Bible subjects. But it is just the condition of things foretold in the Bible. I find many here who like the book and want the second volume. Still but very few are deeply interested in the closing events of the gospel age, and but few are running for the race for the prize. I cannot tell you how much I prize your writings, and I don’t know how I can spend my time more profitably than in circulating the truth, by selling DAWN as at present.
Yours for the truth, E. H__________.
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL:—I have often thought I would like to write you of my high appreciation of your good work in disseminating the truth, and tell you of the wonderful comfort and benefit your writings afford me. I would not be without them for thousands of dollars. My only regret is my inability (financially) to do more toward spreading the good tidings of truth. During the past year I have given away about 300 copies of “Old Theology” and several copies of Dawn. But, alas! how few take hold of the truth. Yet I occasionally hear the remark, “I agree with him mostly,” but that is the last. I have found only one, so far, who heartily takes to the truth and sympathizes with me, and that is my father. May be other seed will germinate later on; leastwise I shall continue to sow as best I can. I would like to devote my entire time to the service of our Master, but am compelled to work all the time to support my family. I greatly rejoice to see the glorious Millennial reign of Christ closely approaching. May he hasten the day, and shield his faithful ones from the preceding great tribulation coming on the world. Please send me 500 Arp slips. I think I can use all these judiciously by enclosing in letters, etc. Yours in the love of truth,
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL:—I am glad to know from letters in TOWER that the truth is spreading and more laborers are added, and some are continually rallying round the standard of truth, although the numbers are few compared to those still opposing the truth. In this vicinity many have become interested to some extent, and have rejoiced for a time, but I am sorry to say but few have the courage or will to make the sacrifices.
What a wonderful book the second volume of Dawn is. The proofs are so conclusive. I have read it through many times, and every time I read it am more and more astonished and convinced of the presence of our Lord, and that the time is indeed at hand.
Yours in Christian love, J. P.
DEAR BROTHER:—I would like to read the WATCH TOWER regularly. Though a preacher, I am very poor. If possible I will pay for it some time during the year. I admire your “Old Theology.” I greatly admire your Christian spirit. May God bless you.
Yours in hope of eternal life, W. B.
MR. C. T. RUSSELL:—Some time ago I wrote you to send me Vol. I. of Millennial Dawn. I received it and read it, and found wonderful knowledge in it, but not until my brother-in-law handed me Vol. II. did I find the grandest, dearest and deepest knowledge that it has been my fortune to acquire. I have read first and second volumes twice. Indeed I am continually studying Vol. II. I notice in it that you are engaged on another volume, and I want it just as soon as you complete it. Very respectfully, J. N. M.
Eureka Springs, Ark.
TOWER PUBLISHING CO., Allegheny, Pa.—Gents:—I have just read your Plan of the Ages, through the kindness of a friend, and it so sharpened my appetite for knowledge on this plane that has so long been uppermost in my very soul that I have a “hungering and thirsting” after more light, and covet the best gifts that I may study to be approved and be counted one of the “little flock.” I aspire to nothing short of “glorification” and to be a “priest and king unto God.” Therefore please send me for enclosed, Vol. II. of Millennial Dawn. “The time is at hand,” and if there are any subsequent volumes to follow, I will send for them in due time, whatever may be the outcome of the matter. Brother Russell is undoubtedly putting many who read his works to thinking for themselves. May God bless him in his labor.
Very truly, G. A. V.
DEAR BRETHREN:—I received six copies of the DAWN, Vol. II.—cloth-bound. I meant it to be paper-covered but forgot to say so in my order, so it is my own mistake. I enclose $5 to cover the shortage. Please renew subscription for WATCH TOWER—three copies per month—for 1890. The balance use where most needed. How lonely some of us would be without it. I humbly ask your prayers that the Lord would renew a right spirit within me.
My employer has urged me to buy a home and pay for the same in small installments, (price $2,000,) himself being security for the amount; but as I thought this would be putting a yoke around my neck for a number of years, and perhaps would serve to draw my interests away from the great prize, I have, against the advice of many, refused the otherwise kind offer. May the Lord give grace to remain a “stranger and foreigner,” and not get entangled with the things of this world, but, instead, to lay up a treasure in heaven. Yours, in the Lord, __________.
::R1193 : page 3::
MY ONE TALENT
“IN a napkin smooth and white,
Hidden from all mortal sight,
My one talent lies to-night.
“Mine to hoard, or mine to use,
Mine to keep, or mine to lose;
May I not do what I choose?
“Ah! the gift was only lent,
With the Giver’s known intent
That it should be wisely spent.
“And I know he will demand
Every farthing at my hand,
When I in his presence stand.
“What will be my grief and shame
When I hear my humble name,
And cannot repay his claim!
“Some will double what they hold;
Others add to it tenfold,
And pay back its shining gold.
“Lord, O teach me what to do!
I would faithful be and true;
Still the sacred trust renew.
“Help me, ere too late it be,
Something now to do for thee;
Thou who hast done all for me!”
::R1193 : page 3::
VIEW FROM THE TOWER
The following will interest all who are awake and watching for the conclusions of Presbyterianism, upon the question of the revision of its creed or “Confession.”
This is a “burning question” in more senses than one, and a question which affects many other denominations besides the one having the discussion. It affects all systems whose creeds are based upon John Calvin’s theology—United Presbyterians, Reformed Presbyterians, Baptists and others built upon Calvinism. However, the members of these other denominations do not generally know this; for the rising generation in all subscribe to and profess the doctrines with almost no knowledge of them. And as for the ministers who realize what is involved, they keep very quiet—hoping that no such controversy will disturb their peace or expose their creeds to the cold criticism of common sense in the light of the Bible and of reason. But the hope is vain. It will surely come. Every man’s work shall be tried so as by fire. There will be a general turning of things upside down, that the truth may now have a chance to be heard which has so long been smothered by error.
The following is clipped from a Chicago daily:—
“DR. BARROWS REVOLTS.
HE REPUDIATES THE OLD THEOLOGY,
CALLING THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION A HINDRANCE AND A STUMBLING BLOCK IN THE CHRISTIAN’S WAY.—HE SAYS THE AGE DEMANDS A BROADER CREED AND FAITH.
“Rev. Dr. John H. Barrows, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, preached an eloquent sermon yesterday morning (Dec. 22d) on the revision of the Presbyterian Confession of Faith. He took for his text the words:
“Matthew 9:16-17: ‘No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill up taketh from the garment and the rent is made worse.
“‘Neither do men put new wine into old bottles, else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.’
“The Westminster Assembly was appointed by the Long Parliament of England, and its members began their task with a revision of the thirty-nine articles of the English church; but when they reached the fifteenth article, they dropped their work of revision as a useless business, and for five years addressed themselves to the preparation of a new confession. And so, in the judgment of many, the attempt to revise the Westminster Confession to-day will ultimately be abandoned, and a new creed, more scriptural, more in harmony with present conditions, briefer and less polemical, will take the place of the Westminster Assembly’s work. Rev. Dr. Gibson, of London, said to me recently: ‘You will find, as we found in England, that revision will be an endless and unsatisfactory task, and that the best solution of the present problem will be a briefer creed, which shall gradually take the place of the old.’ The movement of revision of some kind pervades the Presbyterian Church almost everywhere. Last year the established church of Scotland changed the terms of subscription, ‘leaving it to the conscience of each minister to decide for himself what he regards as essential and necessary articles of faith.’
This is practically the work of the form of subscription now used in America, but it has certain disadvantages of which I shall speak later. The noble Free Church of Scotland, which came out of the establishment in 1843, in order to preserve the ancient liberty of God’s people in managing their own spiritual concerns, has resolved to revise the Confession. The United Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1879 made a declaratory statement modifying the Confession in three points, making the redemption of Christ general in extent, affirming human responsibility for accepting or rejecting the gospel, and disapproving all intolerance.
“If revision is all that we are to obtain after the present discussion, we shall find, in my opinion, that we have an exceedingly unsatisfactory document on our hands, a garment patched in an unseemly way and presenting no acceptable pattern. …
“One advantage of the present discussion is that it furnishes an opportunity for many ministers to express their minds, and on account of this I am at liberty to speak to you freely and fully. Of course the question arises: ‘If there are so many things in the confession of faith to which some of us take exceptions, how can we rightly subscribe to it? How can we remain in the Presbyterian ministry or eldership?’ This question deserves a frank and careful answer. When I was invited, eight years ago, to this pulpit I had recently made a statement of my theological views to a Congregational council in Boston, a conservative council, and they were deemed entirely satisfactory. I am in accord with what is called ‘New England orthodoxy.’ I knew but little about the confession of faith of the Presbyterian Church; but when I was called to this pastorate I made it my duty to read it. Thinking that I might have some trouble in regard to the acceptance of it, a distinguished Presbyterian minister of Chicago kindly wrote me as follows: ‘For myself I do not deem our confession and mode of administration by any means perfect. But I accept the confession as containing the system of doctrine taught in the holy Scriptures, as well as some things not in the holy Scriptures, and the government and discipline I approve as, in general, good, but susceptible of important improvements, especially in the direction of the greater liberty of individual churches. And my views on this matter are at one with a large and increasing number of our ministers and churches.’ And so I, too, according to the requirement of our form of government, accept the Confession of Faith as containing the system of doctrine taught in the holy Scriptures. I find there the great facts and outlines of that system, God’s sovereign grace, his mercy in Jesus Christ, the offer of salvation on condition of repentance and faith, the work of the holy spirit in regeneration and sanctification, the teaching that the Bible is an infallible rule of faith and duty, the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord; and, in short, every essential part of Christian truth. I find, also, some things that appear to me exaggerations, and many things that belong to theological metaphysics rather than to essential Christian truth. I discover, also, some things which appear to me to be erroneous; but I find there, as in all the great confessions, the system of doctrine taught in the Scripture. As the Tower of London
::R1194 : page 3::
contains, or used to contain, the crown jewels, beautifully set in coronets and scepters, so the Confession contains the jewels of heavenly grace and truth set in forms of human workmanship. But the Tower of London contains not only the crown jewels, but many an old headpiece and rusty suit of armor and outworn weapons; and so I believe the Confession contains, besides the precious substance of the gospel, pieces of theological armor that might well be laid aside.”
[This, then, is the “frank and careful answer” of Mr. Barrows to his own question: “If there are so many things in the Confession of Faith to which some of us take exceptions, how can we rightly subscribe to it?” Briefly summed up the answer is—
1st. I was as honest as the rest—they all do it.
2nd. In subscribing to so many things which we do not believe or teach, and in pledging ourselves, solemnly, before God, that we do believe and that we will teach those things, we merely went through a form before the public. And we eased our consciences from that terrible fraud and perjury done in the name of God and truth, by having a little private understanding between ourselves as ministers, to the effect that, “It is only a form, you know,” and done to hoodwink the public and to keep up the usual appearance, etc. We doubt very much whether his answer to his own question is quite satisfying to Dr. Barrows’ conscience.
However, this confession (though it should be much more full and frank) is to be commended as a first step in the right direction. Dr. Barrows’ next step should be to resign his pulpit and to step out of all that he stepped into by means of his subscription to a creed in which there were “so many things” which he heartily disbelieved. The “Doctor” should not confess thus his past misdeed and still hold on to the position, salary, dignities, etc., thus fraudulently obtained. He should not only repent of the transaction but should cancel it entirely and at once. Let him step out boldly for the Truth and for fullest freedom in teaching it, without any human bonds.—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
“Hundreds of ministers and thousands of elders have accepted the Westminster Confession with such an understanding of it as this, and the terms of subscription have been so liberal that they have not been particularly uneasy under the yoke.”
[Hark there! What a confession! The “Doctor” solemnly from the pulpit reveals the true state of the case—that, hundreds of ministers and thousands of elders have thus fraudulently pretended to accept certain doctrines which contain “so many things” they utterly disbelieve and repudiate. Are the “common people” of the pews to understand that their “rulers and teachers” have long been posing before them in the role of mountebanks, playing in religious and sacred things the juggler tricks of sword-swallowers and fire-eaters, affecting to swallow the terrible doctrines of Calvinism, but really doing nothing of the sort? Surely such deceptions will not long excite the reverence of the people. By and by an honest man will come to be appreciated and such dishonesty will meet with its just rebuke. It would do so at once but for the fact that the people of the pews as well as the ministers and elders are, many of them, similarly engaged in the same deception; and they cannot find fault with others for doing what they themselves are doing. What is needed all around is honesty. Can we wonder that God should and does refuse to use such ministers as channels for truths now due, as vessels for bearing to the household of faith “meat in due season?” Nor need we wonder that congregations of men and women who know of and wink at such deceptions, and who practice the same in their own subscription to creeds they do not believe, are unready for the truth? Only honest men and women are worthy of present truth.—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
“But, while not favoring any laxer terms of subscription, they would greatly prefer to be put in a position that would not expose them to even the suspicion of being uncandid. They would greatly prefer to have a creed no part of which failed to command their assent.”
[In other words, they do not like to complain, and for the emoluments, the honors of men, etc., they are still willing to stand up like little men and swallow the bitter and perjurous dose of the Confession, which stultifies their manhood and keeps them dwarfs in spiritual development; but they would “greatly prefer” to have some little change made, now that the nineteenth century light is shining in, which exposes their admitted uncandidness and is arousing suspicion of their general and even their business honesty.—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
“I have been greatly grieved that on account of the confessional barrier we have been unable to induce certain beloved and honored brethren in this church to accept the eldership.”
[Ah yes! some were too noble; no doubt they were business men of the higher class, used to recognizing principles of integrity. We are glad to know that there are some whom the seducing sophistries of the minister as well as the honors of men could not “induce” to thus foreswear their convictions. Ah yes! those are not only honored in the sight of the pastor who could not mislead them but they are honored in the sight of God also. We wish we could know those honorable men by name. We believe they are worthy of the truth and that they would be ready to receive it. We fear, however, that Dr. Barrows’ congregation did not contain many so honest and so honorable as these. Most of those so honorable soon come to see that their membership and presence in a congregation professing faith in a Confession containing “so many things” which they do not believe is dishonest, a misrepresentation of their faith to the dishonor of God as well as to the discredit of their own intelligence.—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
“There are others who are unwilling to enter the church because it is anchored to a doctrinal statement from so much of which they dissent.” [These are yet
::R1194 : page 4::
more noble and honorable or else more awake.—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
“It is well known that assent to the Confession is not required of any but ministers and elders. But, in spite of this there are those who are unwilling to seem affiliated with doctrines which they reject, and reject because they do not seem to them a fair interpretation of the Scriptures.”
[No, “Doctor,” you are mistaken; it is not well known that assent to the Confession is not required of any but ministers and elders. The contrary of this, however, is well known or ought to be. We fear that the delicacy of your own position on this question has led you to state yourself in such a manner that not many will at once fully understand you. Were we to state the matter for you as we presume it to run in your mind, but in a manner not likely to be misunderstood by any one, we would state it thus:—While the members of the Presbyterian Church are required to assent to the general Confession of Faith, and thus to declare it to be a good expression of their belief, yet they are not obliged to make a public vow or oath of office that they believe and teach it, as the ministers and elders are obliged to do. The difference between a false vow and a false confession is the same difference as between perjury and lying. He who disbelieves “so many things,” if he publicly confesses that he does believe them, is guilty of lying before God and men, while he who vows that he believes and will teach them and does neither is guilty of perjury; whether custom makes such lying and perjury fashionable and respectable or not. We want to look at our conduct as God looks at it. And if our hearts condemn us of either of these sins, let us remember that God is still a higher and more strict Judge than we are apt to be of ourselves.—1 John 5:20.—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
“Why put so many justly disputable things into a confession which is designed for a bond of union in a church like ours? And why should a church which is going forth to conquer India and China and Japan for Christ carry in hand, beside the word of God, anything less worthy than a fresh and modern statement of essential truth? I must frankly say that I do not like to see any seventeenth century theological yoke placed on the rising churches of the missionary world. I should greatly prefer to see them allowed to shape their own creeds. It is probable that new flashes of light will come to the old doctrines when they have passed through the Oriental mind, which is nearer to the Biblical ways of thought and expression than that of the West.”
[But, “Doctor,” pray explain to us why it is necessary to use any creed as a bond of union? Was not the church of the Apostle’s days the grand illustration of union and purity and love as it should but does not exist since bonds of union in the shape of creeds were introduced? If all creeds and confessions were abandoned and the Bible were accepted as the only standard of faith, would not the true union of heart and faith in fundamentals the sooner come about, and be accompanied by a personal liberty of conscience?
And if the heathen churches should be at liberty to shape their own creeds, why not the churches nearer home have as much liberty. And if congregations may shape their own creeds why should not each individual be accorded fullest liberty to shape his own creed?—the liberty which Christ arranged for and which the Apostles urged.
And if such liberty would “probably” lead to occasional flashes of light uncovering the truth of God’s word and plan more fully and leading “nearer to Biblical ways of thought and expression,” why might not full liberty here at home, under the blessing of the same Holy Spirit, bring fresh and clearer views now and continually? It surely would bring not only clearer views than the Westminster Confession contains, but clearer views than
::R1195 : page 4::
any “modern statement” of faith. Why then tie up with a new creed which would hinder the Spirit’s teaching and shedding of fresh light upon God’s word, and which shortly would again need revision. Why not get free and stay free, and enjoy and walk in the light, and keep continually growing in grace and in the knowledge and love of God?—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
“I have preached for eight years in the Presbyterian Church and have not failed to secure your approval of my teaching as substantially orthodox, and I am confident that my beloved brethren in the ministry have regarded me as properly having a place in the ranks of the Presbyterian Church. But, if the frank admissions which I recently made regarding the defects of the Westminster Confession should deprive me of rightful standing in the Presbyterian Church, then I ought to take my position outside of it in company with some of the most distinguished professors in our theological seminaries. In this time of discussion there should be no holding back of opinions. I do believe that our Confession of Faith is now, and has been in the past, a hindrance to the progress of the kingdom of Christ. Professor Goldwin Smith once remarked to a friend of mine that in his judgment the Presbyterian Church of America would have three times its present strength if it had not persisted in carrying a millstone around its neck in the shape of the Confession. We know that the Cumberland Presbyterian Church broke off from us because of the teachings of the third chapter regarding the decree of reprobation or preterition. We know that we have been at a serious disadvantage with other denominations in commending our doctrine to the popular mind, and the present discussion will show that inside the church there has been so much of drifting and departure from the Westminster standards that they do not fairly represent the convictions of to-day. Whatever his success in other things, Professor Briggs, of New York, in his recent remarkable work, has shown that the Presbyterian Church is not in harmony in many points with the Westminster standards. He has shown that the church to-day and our leading theologians differ from the confession in their doctrines regarding the Scriptures. In regard to creation, in regard to the extent of the atonement and the work of the spirit, in regard to the fate of the heathen, the damnation of infants, in regard to the pope, in regard to the forgiveness of sins, and on many other points, these theologians and leading pastors differ from the standards. They may also differ from each other as much as they differ from the Confession. Dr. Briggs has said that ‘subscription to the Westminster system in the historic sense is out of the question.’
“The changes already brought about in Christian thinking make it certain that others are to follow. With no express authority from the Scriptures men have come to believe in the universal salvation of all infants. Dr. Charles Hodge did more than anybody else to make the doctrine universally accepted, but it is seen at once that, if all infants are saved, this teaching has an immediate bearing on the question of the salvability of the heathen. Dr. Prentiss has shown that the reasons which Dr. Hodge assigns for his faith that all infants are to be saved cannot be limited to them. The first reason is the analogy between Adam and Christ. ‘So then, as through one trespass the judgment came upon all men unto condemnation, even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For, as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One shall the many be made righteous.’
“If the sin of Adam through his connection with the race led to universal sinfulness on the part of all born into the world, may not the righteousness of Christ lead to the redemption of all born into the world who are cut off before free moral agency finds expression in evil acts? The second reason which Dr. Hodge assigns for his faith is that it is more congenial to the nature of God to bless than to curse; but this reason cannot be limited to children. It is equally applicable to multitudes in the heathen world. The third ground for Dr. Hodge’s faith is the conduct and language of our Lord in reference to children. Precisely the same reasoning, says Dr. Prentiss, might be applied to other classes. To draw an impassable dividing line between infants and all little boys and girls, for example, in whom original sin has just begun to act, seems most unwarrantably to limit the grace of God. Universal infant salvation does not and cannot stand alone. It shows how inconceivably wide and deep is God’s mercy in Christ Jesus. It shows that, speaking after the manner of men, he is doing all that he can for the actual redemption of the world; nothing keeps any soul from the gracious operation of his infinite love and pity but his own wilful choice of the evil and refusal of the good.”
[Ah no! Your difficulty, gentlemen, lies in the very foundation of your theory; and this error leads you to this very absurd statement, that God is doing all that he can. On the contrary, every one knows that if Dr. Prentiss had the one-hundredth part of the power and wisdom possessed by the Infinite Creator—the Almighty—he could speedily cause the knowledge of the Lord to fill the whole earth. We must admit that interpretation of the doctrine of election which teaches that God during the present time (the Gospel age) is selecting a “little flock” of saints fully consecrated to his service, and reject that unscriptural feature of Calvinism which teaches that all not of this elect “little flock” are eternally lost. True, they are not yet saved, nor can they ever be saved by ignorance or in ignorance of Christ; but God’s election of the “little flock” to be joint-heirs with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom is to the very intent that through the “elect” class, when highly exalted to the power and perfection of the divine nature, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” by being brought to a knowledge of the truth. It is for this purpose that a general resurrection of the dead is promised, that they as well as those nations living at the time the kingdom under the whole heavens is given to the elect (Dan. 7:18,22), may be blessed under that fulness of knowledge of God and his gracious plan which shall then fill the world as the waters cover the sea. The elect “body” under Christ their “Head” are the long promised Seed of Abraham, and through them the gracious promise (Gal. 3:16,29) must yet be fulfilled. That promise has not been fulfilled in the past; and it could not be fulfilled to those families of the earth which have gone down into death in any other manner than as God has provided—by a resurrection.
Brethren, joyfully accept God’s solution of your difficulty—that though none can be saved without faith and obedience, ample provision for all is made and will be applied when “All that are in their graves hear the voice of the Son of Man and come forth—and they who hear (obey) shall live” (shall be fully saved from condemnation and death and brought to perfect life). Moses, who typified this elect church (head and body), declared this truth, saying: “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up [elect and exalt] unto you, like unto me. Him shall ye hear [obey] in all things. And it shall come to pass that the soul that will not hear [obey] that prophet shall be cut off from among his people” [die the second death].—Compare Acts 3:22,23.
Your remark, that “Nothing keeps any soul from the gracious operation of God’s infinite love and pity but his own wilful choice of the evil and refusal of the good,” will be true then, when Christ’s church is exalted to the dominion of earth, when the Kingdom is come and God’s will is done on earth as it is done in heaven; but it is not true now. The gracious operation of infinite love is through faith, such faith as can only be inspired by a knowledge of the truths of God’s Word; and these are made void and of none effect by mixtures of false doctrines of human creeds.—Z.W.T. ED.]
Dr. Barrows continued, commenting upon the words of Dr. Prentiss above quoted:—
“But these convictions of a professor in one of our leading seminaries do not square with the following extract from the tenth chapter of the Confession: ‘Much less can men not professing the Christian religion be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they ever so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious and to be detested.’ That is, it is the teaching or necessary implication of the Confession that all those in the heathen world who have been most marked for goodness, who have had conviction for sins and yearnings after the Redeemer they could not know, that every pious Jew since the Christian church was founded who has not accepted the Christ, that Buddha and his followers, however benevolent their lives—that these with all the numberless millions who, born in ignorance of the Christ, have crawled through their brief, sorrowing, darkened and sinful lives in all the lands of paganism, are hopelessly doomed to everlasting destruction.” [But, Dr. Barrows, you fail to state the case with its true, full, awful force. If Calvinism taught merely that all these who never heard of the Redeemer could never have the everlasting life which he came to give, but must be left hopelessly doomed to everlasting destruction (obliteration, annihilation) it would not be so bad—not nearly so bad. It would be a gracious, a merciful provision as compared with the awful, God-dishonoring doctrines which it does teach; for elsewhere that Confession plainly declares to the world and especially to all who confess it and particularly to those who vow to teach it, that these who never heard of Christ shall suffer torments forever. To deny that Christ redeemed the souls of all from destruction, and to claim that he is the Redeemer of only the
::R1196 : page 4::
few who have heard of and fully accepted
::R1196 : page 5::
of his offer of life, in the present life, is to repudiate him as the Savior of the world and to contradict the multitudinous statements of the Scriptures to the effect that he was a propitiation [satisfaction] for the sins of the whole world, and that “He gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified [to all] in due time.” This would be a sad mistake, because, though it would not alter God’s plan one whit, it would so hide from those thus misinformed much of the glory, and the length and breadth and height and depth of the divine plan which is being worked out only through faith in and obedience to the Redeemer. But to teach that God will specially perpetuate the lives of such unfortunates so as to cause them everlasting distress and pain, is not only a blasphemy against the divine character, but a blot upon the intelligence of those many large bodies of otherwise intelligent people who hold to it—for it is too ridiculous for even the most degraded heathens to believe or teach. And besides, it would make God a liar, for he distinctly declares that the extreme penalty of wilful sin and wilful rejection of Christ is the death of the soul.—Gen. 3:3; Isa. 55:3; Ezek. 18:4,20; Matt. 10:28.—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
Dr. Barrows continuing said:—”Who gave the Westminster divines any such divine authority that their work should be deemed the last test of theological soundness? We should not claim more for them than they claimed for themselves. And why should we not trust the holy spirit in the church of Christ to-day? Is it not dishonoring to him to doubt that he is able to lead the church and inspire even a heavenlier and more perfect wisdom than that which our fathers gained? I believe with Rev. Dr. Alexander, of New York, that the nineteenth century is nearer the mind of Christ than the seventeenth century; and I agree with Rev. Dr. James Candlish, professor of theology in the Free Church of Scotland, that “the Westminster Confession, in many parts, has ceased to be a statement of the vital truths of Christianity in a form suitable and intelligible to the mind of the present age.’ I go further and affirm that a question which includes in its fundamental teaching the horrible dogma that God from eternity has foredoomed the great mass of his children to eternal torment, passing them by and leaving them no possibility of redemption on account of the failure of their first parent, Christ not dying for them, and they unable, by conforming their lives ever so diligently to the light of nature, to come within the power of his redeeming mercy—I hold that such a confession, however magnificent in some of its parts, is not in harmony with what the church to-day believes is the spirit and trend of the scriptures. It does not seem to many to be like a God of infinite fatherly love, to make eternal destinies of such moment as heaven and hell hinge on one transaction, or even on the first moral acts of childhood, when that childhood is handicapped and cursed by the weight of ancestral sins and inherent moral corruption. An earthly father who should enjoin his little child to paint like Raphael or write like Shakespeare before he was three years of age, under penalty of destruction of his eyesight or the maiming of his hand, would be mercy incarnate compared with a heavenly father who should demand impossibilities of his children under threat of eternal torment, and those impossibilities occasioned, not by the sinful acts of the children, but by the disobedience of their remote ancestor. I believe that the church of to-day believes better things of God. We know that an earthly father, seeing in his child inherited tendencies to evil, weaknesses and passions traceable to ancestral sin, looks upon that child with augmented compassion, and, while not excusing his sin, regards it with more leniency and strives to overcome it with a more patient pitifulness and love.”
[Very good, Dr. Barrows! We are glad to find you bold enough to confess what so many others, your fellow-ministers, believe but fear to utter. May this honest confession be blessed to your good and lead you into still further light. For instance, would it not have been equally as unjust in our great Creator to consign Adam and Eve to eternal torture for the disobedience of eating the forbidden fruit? Answer this candidly to yourself. Then reflect that God never said one word about heaven and hell to Adam and Eve, but merely warned them that if disobedient he would take from them the life and blessings then enjoyed. And this is the only penalty that God enforced against them—death, loss of life; and this is the only penalty that we as their posterity ever inherited from them and their sin—”Dying thou shalt die.” And all the weaknesses, mental, moral and physical, which cause us so much trouble, are the direct results of this fall from obedience and harmony and life with God into the present dying condition.
Again, Dr. B., answer to yourself the question: Do not the Scriptures teach, repeatedly, in great variety of expressions, that our Redeemer accomplished our redemption by becoming our ransom [corresponding price] by giving to justice full payment of all that Adam’s guilt demanded as his penalty? Next, look at what he gave for us. If the Scriptures declare that he is suffering, experiencing everlasting torment for us, then it would support yours and the common theory upon the penalty for sin. But you know that your theory has no such circumstantial evidence, even, to rest upon. Notice on the contrary that the record of what our Redeemer did for the settlement of the condemnation against Adam and his posterity agrees with the facts and with the stated penalty and with common sense. “He died for our sins.” “He died, the just for the unjust.” “As by one man’s disobedience sin entered the world and death [entered] by [as a result of] sin, even so by the obedience of one [even unto death] justification is come for all.” (Rom. 5:12,17-20.) These, and hundreds of other texts which your concordance will help you to, prove beyond a question that the penalty exacted of our Lord, as Redeemer, was exactly the penalty pronounced against Adam.—Z.W.T. ED.]
“It appears to me unfortunate to identify orthodoxy with any creed statement of the past, however excellent. This makes orthodoxy a dead thing; it ought to be living and progressive. Orthodoxy has been defined as ‘right thinking about the Christian religion.’ And I believe there should be no line of orthodoxy drawn, as one has said, ‘inside of the line of truth.’ Men pray for the unity of the church of Christ and yet they oppose that which they confess will hasten its coming. We have a ‘separating theology,’ and we are told that we ought not to limit our teaching to the things in which we agree with others. Certainly not. The most elaborate Calvinism will doubtless be taught in our schools, and every form of speculation about the metaphysics of theology will be continued. But why should all this be imposed upon the elders of our churches, who have no theological training?”
[Does this mean, Doctor, that the elders and the church at large are too honest and are becoming too enlightened for the errors of “elaborate Calvinism,” but that the ministers and seminary professors and students will be required to stick to mal-odorous Calvinism in its “most elaborate” form, rather than acknowledge that Calvin was not infallible, and that you all erred for so long in teaching and preaching his monstrous perversions of the truth? Is this your meaning, Doctor? If so, it speaks volumes for the honesty of the pews when contrasted with the pulpits of Presbyterianism. The ministers, we may presume, can afford to continue to stultify themselves and to make vows to believe and teach what they do not believe and know that they dare not preach in a civilized community in this our day. The considerations leading to such a sacrifice of principle and manhood we can only surmise: Is it a desire to maintain the dignity of Presbyterianism? And do they seek its perpetuity because their titles, salaries, etc., are interwoven with the system? We do not prefer to impugn the motives of any, but every action must have some cause, and we fail to see how any good cause could be upheld by the continued teaching of the “most elaborate Calvinism” among those who concede it to be very God-dishonoring. It must be zeal for something else than God’s truth that would lead even to such a suggestion as this.—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
“Dr. Schaff says that the decree of reprobation is ‘a logical fiction and contradicts the genius of Christianity and the plainest declarations of the Bible.’ The confession makes too many justly disputable affirmations, and resembles the man who knows a great many things that are not so. Our churches will feel this more and more as, on account of the widespread debate, they come to read the Confession of Faith. Professor Henry Day, an elder in Dr. John Hall’s church in New York, is reported as saying that ‘until recently only two elders in that church had ever read the Westminster standards.’ If the final outcome of these years of intelligent and charitable Christian discussion shall be a new creed which we can heartily proclaim, it will express a living faith that will give our churches and our pulpits a new spiritual power. It is better to believe a few things thoroughly than to hold a confession that weighs down many minds with a deal of theological lumber. We crowd too much upon the brain and heart of the eldership and the ministry. I speak the experience of many when I say that multitudes come from our theological seminaries with a feeble faith in a great many things. An editor of one of our leading Presbyterian journals calls our confession of faith ‘a wilderness with more dry places than wells of water.’ The church of to-day rightly shrinks from a theology which ‘condemns the whole race to everlasting woe for a single transgression committed without our knowledge or consent six thousand years ago.’ Such a theology is an iceberg rapidly melting in the warmer
::R1197 : page 5::
water and warmer breezes of a more southern sea.
“God has not condemned us to walk the same round of thinking which our fathers trod. We hold in our hand the Bible, which, like nature, is a field for endless investigation. The Bible never grows old. It has been said, ‘Christ never gave men definitions; he gave them paradoxes. A definition shuts you up at once; a paradox you can think about till the day of your death.’ Hence we expect to see more and more light breaking from God’s word. Men who turn away from seventeenth century creeds can be made to feel that this is a revelation from heaven.
“I discover in our communities a growing number of men who constitute much of the intellectual and moral and business strength of our times, men whom we all honor, and many of them men of Christian faith and prayer, who are not within our churches as communicants. They are not affiliated in spirit with unbelief or with extreme liberalism. I have a great deal of regard for these men, and of sympathy with their intellectual difficulties. I hope to see the day when they shall constitute a noble part of our Christian churches. Whether or not what I deem an obstacle to such results is to be removed, I close my sermon this morning by affirming anew the universality, the simplicity and the divine earnestness of the offer of salvation: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. … God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life. Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?'”
[Yes, here is the trouble: the people have neglected God’s Word, and have accepted as infallible the creeds of the seventeenth century, made by good, pious, but mistaken men, still greatly blinded by the errors of the “dark ages.” The people rely upon the ministers and elders, who publicly confess the same to be their candid views of the real meaning of God’s Word and who solemnly vow before God and men that they will give diligence in the instructing of others in those doctrines. Yet probably a large majority of these elders and ministers have never even read doctrines which were so momentous that it required years to decide upon and formulate them. But then these same ministers felt so sure that the Confession was true that they could swear to believe it without even reading it. We trust that the elders of “Dr. John Hall’s Church” above referred to may prove honest enough, now that they are awake, to be worthy to come to a knowledge of the truth as it is revealed in the only true Standard—the Bible—and that making this good confession in truth and earnestly, they may be counted worthy the name of pillars and elders in the “Church of Christ,” to which (and not to “Dr. Hall’s Church”) belongs the promise of glory, honor and immortality, in God’s due time.
Yes, indeed, the controversy on the subject of Calvinism, the basis of the Presbyterian creed, is destined to wake up a great many long asleep; and it will surely in the end separate and divide that system, that the true “wheat” may be gathered out into the one Church of Christ. And the same influence is at work, preparing trouble for all the various Protestant systems—because there are some of God’s elect in each of them. The overflowing scourge and the hail shall be upon all and shall sweep away all the refuges of error.—Isa. 28:17-20.—Z.W.T. EDITOR.]
::R1197 : page 6::
A NEW AND IMPORTANT MOVEMENT
FEDERATION OF PROTESTANT CHURCHES.—PRESBYTERIAN COMMITTEE ON CHURCH UNITY
The following was written to the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette by a gentleman present at the meeting described.
“It is not generally known, yet nevertheless one of the most important religious movements of the century is now taking definite shape, through the work of committees appointed by the different evangelical churches of the United States. The movement is in the direction of church unity, or, at least, federal union of evangelical bodies. The committee of the Presbyterian Church convened at the Executive Mansion in Harrisburg, Pa., on Tuesday evening at 8 o’clock, continuing through Wednesday. There were present Rev. Drs. Joseph T. Smith, of Baltimore; R. M. Patterson, of Philadelphia; D. C. Marquis, of Chicago McCormick Theological Seminary; W. H. Green, of Princeton Theological Seminary; W. H. Roberts, of Lane Theological Seminary, Cincinnati; Francis Brown, of Union Theological Seminary, New York; Hon. James A. Beaver, Governor of Pennsylvania; Hon. Cyrus L. Pershing, of Johnstown, Pa.; Judge Robert N. Wilson, of Philadelphia; Hon. W. E. Dodge, of New York, and E. R. Monfort, of Cincinnati.
“The committee were royally entertained by Governor and Mrs. Beaver at the Executive Mansion. This committee have had under consideration for over two years the questions raised in the declaration of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church addressed to the Protestant denominations of the country in which they set forth:—
“1. Their earnest desire for the closer union of all Christians in the sense of the Savior’s prayer that ‘we all may be one.’
“2. Their belief that all who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are members of the Holy Catholic Church.
“3. That in all things of human ordering relating to modes of worship and discipline or to traditional customs this Church is ready, in the spirit of love and humility, to forego preferences of her own.
“These principles which the Episcopal Church regards as essential to restoration of unity among divided branches are as follows:—
“1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as revealed in the Word of God.
“2. The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of Christian faith.
“3. The two Sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s supper, are administered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
“4. The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the method of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church.
“To carry out the declaration of which the above is an abstract, a commission was appointed, consisting of Rt. Revs. Alfred Lee, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Delaware; John Williams, LL.D., Bishop of Connecticut; Richard H. Wilmer, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Alabama; Abram Newkirk Littlejohn, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Long Island; Mark Antony De Wolfe, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, with five distinguished ministers and five laymen.
“The Presbyterian General Assembly met these advances towards practical unity with cordial sympathy and a desire for co-operation in Christian work, and directed the following reply to be made:—
“To the Commission of Conference on Church Unity of the House of Bishops and of the House of Deputies of the Protestant Episcopal Church:—
“DEAR BRETHREN:—The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America … have received with sincere gratification the ‘declaration’ of your House of Bishops, and your request under it for a brotherly conference with us and with other branches of the Church of Christ, ‘seeking the restoration of the organic unity of the Church of Christ, with a view to the earnest study of the conditions under which so priceless a blessing might happily be brought to pass.’ The General Assembly are in cordial sympathy with the growing desire among the Evangelical Christian Churches for practical unity and co-operation in the work of spreading the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout all the earth. They respond to your invitation with the sincere desire that the conference asked for may lead, if not to a formal oneness of organization, yet to such a vital and essential unity of faith and spirit and co-operation as will bring all the followers of our common Lord into hearty fellowship and mutual recognition and reciprocity as members of one visible Church of Christ, and workers together with Him in advancing his kingdom on earth.
“Without discussing the principles set forth by the House of Bishops, this letter announces the appointment of a committee to confer with such commission and any similar commissions or committees appointed by any of the Christian Churches for conference on the subject.
“The committee have held several meetings and conferences with closed doors, and thus far the result of their deliberations has not been given to the public, and will not until their is mutual consent. The correspondence, when published, will create a decided sensation, and be at the same time a source of great gratification to those who desire the restoration of unity among the divided branches of Christendom. As may be readily seen, their is substantial agreement now upon the first three articles, viz.: The Scriptures, the Sacraments and the Nicene creed; and as to the fourth there has been a most sincere and generous Christian spirit—and I may say desire—upon the part of the
::R1198 : page 6::
Episcopal Bishops to come nearer to the Presbyterian Church and bring the Church nearer to them, and find some basis, if not of organic union, of federal union and co-operation. Dr. John De Witt, of Chicago, not a member of the committee, furnished some articles for The Churchman, in which he clearly set forth to the satisfaction of many Episcopal readers that ‘reciprocity would not contravene any principle of Protestant Episcopacy,’ and we suppose that the facts set forth by him are substantially those that influence the Bishops in their opinion that there are no serious obstacles in their way to the recognition of the Presbyterian and other Protestant ministry, and vice versa.
“The Presbyterian General Assembly at a late session made the following catholic and rational statement of what it considers the grounds upon which ‘practical Church unity can be realized and maintained:’
“‘1. All believers in Christ constitute one body, mystical, yet real, destined to grow into the fulness of Him who filleth all in all.
“‘2. The universal visible Church consists of all those throughout the world who profess the true religion, together with their children.
“‘3. Mutual recognition and reciprocity between the different bodies that profess the true religion is the first and essential step towards practical Church unity.’
“It is manifest that the spirit of federal or co-operative unity has taken deep root in the minds and hearts of the leaders of evangelical bodies, and that the time is not far distant when co-operation and comity, if not more, of all or nearly all evangelical bodies will be realized. The correspondence with the Commission of the Congregational Churches has strengthened this belief, and after a lengthy discussion of a paper by Dr. Patterson, of Philadelphia, on ‘The Federation of Evangelical Churches,’ the committee unanimously agreed to recommend the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church to express its approval of the idea of federation of Evangelical Churches, and invite the evangelical Churches, of the United States to enter into a federal union. Such a federation will not require any sacrifice of doctrinal belief nor the granting of authority by evangelical bodies that would require constitutional changes nor an abandonment of historic beliefs. In the Episcopal Church, for instance, there is no real reason for denying the ordination of other Protestant ministry. Their view of the episcopate involving three orders of the ministry is not held as a dogma or Article of Faith binding on the conscience, for their Standards do not make it such, but merely as a historical fact accepted in their Church, but open to investigation and revision, and so furnishing no obstacle to recognition, co-operation or federation.
“The Federation proposed has not been clearly outlined, but it will be formulated by a Convention composed of delegates from all evangelical bodies who enter into it, and will have limited powers delegated consistent with the constitutions of existing bodies. It will not be an Evangelical Alliance with only advisory powers, but a Federal Alliance for combining general powers and promoting harmony, removing causes of friction, establishing comity and uniting AGAINST THE GREAT ENEMIES of Christianity and progress, and in all possible ways lifting up the standard of the Cross and keeping it unfurled over the allied armies of the King of kings and Lord of lords, that the establishment of His kingdom may be hastened and the world emancipated from the damnation of sin.”—E. R. MONFORT.
* * *
The fact that the gentlemen engaged in this federation or union of the various sects into one (much as the several states are federated in the one government of the United States) have no intention of doing evil, but quite the contrary—to do good—is no guarantee that the work when done will not prove to be an evil, and a stupendous one, as the Scriptures clearly show.
Old readers of the TOWER will remember that nine years ago we pointed out from the Book of Revelation that such a union would take place; and that then and thus Protestantism would become the peer and fellow of Roman Catholicism, and that the two great bodies would co-operate in the great work of strangling every advance in thought on religious subjects. Thus Protestants are making of themselves a system which when perfected will be a veritable likeness or image of the Papal system. We say making because the work of construction began in 1846 in the organization of the Evangelical Alliance. It will reach a still further development in the proposed Evangelical Federation or Union. And it will receive life or vitality as a system and feel its authority later, when it shall accept from the Episcopalians the doctrine of apostolic succession and the laying on of hands. It will then claim that only such as have these holy (?) hands and the authority (?) thus given to teach have any right to teach on religious subjects. And finally it will, figuratively speaking, behead all who will not bow to its dictum; and such shall neither buy nor sell (communicate, trade in the Truth) any more.
Then the Word of God will be relegated to a back seat, as it was during the dark ages, when Papacy claimed to be the only church and that her decrees were to be received and obeyed as God’s Word instead of the Bible, whose day, it was claimed, had passed by. This will be attempted again by the Evangelical Union and the Roman Catholics with some success. But it shall not succeed as before, for general intelligence and the spirit of liberty will not admit their claims nor permit the carrying out of the project. General infidelity among the masses will pave the way for socialism and finally for anarchy, which as the fire of the great day of God Almighty shall sweep all before it into the greatest time of trouble the world has ever known (Dan. 12:1), overthrowing all sects and isms and giant systems and the governments associated with them.
The formation of such a federation as is projected means a fourfold political influence. It means the formulation of laws upon religion. At first these will be conservative, touching and attempting to curb only the grosser immoralities; but each success will embolden and finally bring the mailed hand of power to the throat of individual liberty—gradually curtailing and strangling freedom of speech upon religion as well as upon politics. This at first will be by laws regulating the observance of Sunday—compelling abstinence from business on that day.
Our friends, the Seventh Day Adventists, affect to see in such a law a terrible blow at them and against their liberty of conscience to worship God according to their ideas of the teachings of his Word. But they are deceiving themselves. Such a law would not interfere at all with their observance of Saturday (the day which they, thinking themselves under the Law given to Israel, feel bound to observe, and on which they abstain from labor). Should such a law pass, as we have no doubt it will, it will interfere with no man’s conscience, as each may observe as many and which ever days he pleases in addition to Sunday. The Seventh Day Adventists, in crying out that such a Sunday law would be a great crime against their liberty of conscience, evidently delude themselves. Surely they will not claim that God commanded them to do labor on Sunday. And, this being true, they should have no conscientious scruples against resting from labor on Sunday if the majority of their fellow-citizens insist upon it. We surely see no good objection to such a law as a movement for rest from labor, though we believe it unwise from a religious standpoint to try to legislate faith or worship to any degree.
We merely point out the fact that such harmless legislation will prove an entering wedge for other not so harmless. For if the right of the majority to decide upon such questions be admitted at all, it will be easy to carry the principle further and decide what God shall
::R1198 : page 7::
be worshipped on that day and what one belief shall be held and taught, and to tax all for the support of that one system of belief.
Already we have an intimation of how the matter may be expected to work. In Chicago after the haymarket riots, etc., certain police orders were given with a view to the suppression of Anarchistic meetings for the promulgation of their wild theories, as against the interests of the public welfare. Thereupon the Anarchists organized their meetings and held them on Sundays and called them Anarchist Sunday Schools; and there being no laws against Sunday Schools the police have been baffled and the Chief of Police of Chicago is credited with the remark that the law must stipulate what shall be recognized as a Sunday School. The next step evidently would be to limit and define what are Christian doctrines and what are heresies. And it requires no great stretch of imagination to see that when the Evangelical Federation or Union has been formed and its creed defined that creed will gradually come to be recognized as the standard of orthodoxy; and then any out of harmony with such majority will have very limited rights and privileges indeed. It is not only possible but highly probable that not only Anarchists and the Seventh Day Adventists and ourselves, but others of God’s children more or less free from sectarianism and its hoary errors will be hindered in the spread of the truth—strangled. And it will not at all surprise us if this condition of things may come to pass by the year 1900—or sooner. To all of the dear fellow-laborers in the harvest work we say then, fervently, Labor on faint not; “Labor while it is called day for a night cometh wherein no man can work.”
::R1199 : page 7::
HONEST SKEPTICISM AND ITS REMEDY
Although we do not endorse the teachings of Prof. Huxley on the nature and destiny of man, we must acknowledge that he is one of the great thinkers of our day, though we see that like many other thinkers not submitted fully to the direction of the Word of God, he has stumbled into many foolish and illogical errors as viewed from the standpoint of divine enlightenment.
A recent article from his pen shows clearly that sectarianism, with its false teachings, claiming to be the teachings of God’s Word, is responsible, to a large degree, for Mr. Huxley’s infidelity, as doubtless the same cause is responsible for very much of the prevalent and growing agnosticism.
Nothing but the truth will reach and satisfy the candid, discriminating minds of honest men of really strong minds. The nominal church in rejecting the simplicity of Christ’s gospel and manufacturing various schemes and theories instead, has indeed invented what will rule the ignorant and superstitious; but in so doing she has lost the only thing which could reach or influence intelligent men. As a consequence, now, that superstition is giving way and intelligence is becoming more general, skepticism is rife on every hand and is fast blooming into open infidelity—an infidelity, too, not only against sectarianism (which would, indeed, be a blessing), but infidelity toward God’s Word, too; for it is generally, though very erroneously supposed that the “Creeds of Christendom” represent the teachings of the Bible. Prof. Huxley’s article referred to, however, we are glad to see, indicates that his eyes are opening to discern between the teachings of sects and the teachings of God’s Word. He writes as follows:
PROF. HUXLEY ON BIBLE READING
“Greatly to the surprise of many of my friends, I have always advocated the reading of the Bible, and the diffusion of the study of that most remarkable collection of books among the people. Its teachings are so infinitely superior to those of the sects, who are just as busy now as the Pharisees were eighteen hundred years ago, in smothering them under “the precepts of men;” it is so certain to my mind, that the Bible contains within itself the refutation of nine-tenths of the mixture of sophistical metaphysics and old-world superstitions which have been piled round it by the so-called Christians of later times; it is so clear that the only immediate and ready antidote of the poison which has been mixed with Christianity, to the intoxication and delusion of mankind, lies in copious draughts from the undefiled spring, that I exercise the right and duty of free judgment on the part of every man, mainly for the purpose of inducing other laymen to follow my example. If the New Testament is translated into Zulu by Protestant missionaries, it must be assumed that a Zulu convert is competent to draw from its contents all the truths which it is necessary for him to believe. I trust that I may, without immodesty, claim to be put on the same footing as the Zulu.”
Good, clear logic that! If the Bible is the standard of truth, if it is God’s Revelation of himself, his will and his plan, why not grant to each the fullest liberty to read and believe it for himself? Why not merely point out to such the external and internal evidences of its truth, and leave them free from bondage to creeds to grow in the knowledge and understanding of it? Why should Christians separate into sects and adopt other “standards” for each sect? Why teach the precepts of Calvin and Knox and Luther and Wesley, and others, when we have better, purer doctrines than theirs in the words of Christ and his inspired apostles and prophets? Why teach the traditions of men just emerging from the dark ages with the eyes of their understandings semi-blinded with the smoke of Papacy’s errors? Why not destroy all creeds and confessions and merely confess the fountain source of all truth to be God and his Word, and go daily to that fountain?
It is encouraging to see Prof. Huxley at the Fountain, even though yet incredulously sipping, and to hear his testimony that the waters thereof are much sweeter and purer than those of the various befouled streams flowing through the jungles of the dark ages.
We note a still more interesting and remarkable yet similar case here in Allegheny, recently: A gentleman of culture and a thinker recently called upon the editor and producing a clipping from one of the daily papers of about a year ago, inquired as to its authorship. It proved to be an article written by the editor of this journal to his fellow-citizens explaining briefly our views of the divine plan, intended to be a contradiction of certain misunderstandings and public misstatements of our views. The caller then continued the conversation somewhat as follows:—
“That I clipped over a year ago and have kept it ever since. I consider the views there presented the most reasonable and in fact I may say, the only reasonable views on religion that I ever met with. I was brought up a United Presbyterian, a Calvinist of the strictest sort. I was earnest, honest and zealous. I united with that sect when I was about eighteen years of age. But, though always moral and rather sedate, I never could feel sure that I was one of the elect, and I had great distress of mind continually which I was rather ashamed to confess, even to my spiritual advisors, though I was forced to do so finally to, if possible, get relief. I was through the civil war, and before every battle I was harassed with the thought that it might be my last and that dying might prove that I was not one of God’s elect.
“I finally came to the conclusion that all such ideas were false—contrary to common sense, and contrary to the character which God must have to be God. Knowing well the passages upon which the doctrines of my church were rested, I finally concluded that the Bible was not God’s revelation and rejected it and all religious beliefs built upon it. I became thus a free-thinker—an infidel, a disciple of Thomas Paine; with him believing in a supreme Creator, but denying that his character and plan are represented in the doctrines of the various associations calling themselves his church. I have been in this condition, satisfied with infidelity, for over ten years, but I have been skeptical for twenty or more.
“But from your article, here, clipped from the Press, I get some new thoughts on the Election of the Church, what it is elected to, and the object of this election. I want, if you please, to have you appoint some evening, when I can call upon you and learn more of the details of this which you term God’s Plan of the Ages. I did not willingly renounce the Bible; I never was one of the blatant blasphemous sort of infidels; I am too conscientious, however, to quietly profess what I do not believe, though there are many church members who believe no more than I do. If now, as you intimate, you can show me that all the various sects draw their conflicting and unreasonable doctrines, not from the Bible, but from the Church of Rome, and that the Church of Rome drew them from the vagaries of the Grecian Philosophy at a time when she was intent upon building up her system and gaining political power; and if then you can show me that the Bible contains the grand philosophy which this little article from the Press outlines, I shall be a convert most willingly. But I want clear, reasonable evidence and not mere hypothesis.”
We assured the gentleman that we should be most pleased to discuss the subject as requested, except that we wanted to begin with the examination of the Bible, and then come to an examination of how the various errors and misapplications of Scripture came to be received so commonly as Truth. But we requested that first of all he should read very candidly the first volume of DAWN—”The Plan of the Ages“—after which we would have the proposed meeting for questions and a general discussion. This plan was followed; we had several private meetings as well as the public Sunday services, with the result that in three weeks this friend saw clearly, and confessed heartily, the great Redeemer and the glorious plan. In another week it was time for him to leave the city, but before he went he procured and sent out many copies of DAWN for his U.P. friends as well as for those whom he regarded as the more honest among his Infidel friends. And to us he said,—
“I feel like the prodigal returned to Father’s house; some nights I can scarcely sleep for thinking of the wonderful plan, so suddenly seen from out of such darkness. I never knew such joy and heavenly peace but once before, and that was when as a soldier during the Civil War, I was lying near death’s door in a hospital in Philadelphia. I want to tell you of that experience and ask you, how you would account for it. It was before I became an Infidel, while I was yet a believer in the horrible U.P. doctrines which you so aptly term a nightmare. I was fearful of death, fearful of the future, and though I had always been a moral man, I had no assurance that I was one of the elect, but on the contrary believed as I had been taught that my morality had nothing whatever to do with my election. I was in a terrible state of mind, but knew that to confer with others would be useless as none could alter God’s decrees. My mental torture was aggravating my physical ailments, and I was becoming daily weaker, spending my weary hours in prayer and thought which seemed to find no response, until one morning I awoke after a most refreshing sleep entirely changed. My fears were gone, my hopes were bright, my communion with the Lord was close; the grass looked differently from ever grass seemed before, the birds had cheerful notes to my ear—in fact the whole world had changed in that night.
“This joy continued for some time, but gradually faded. I, at that time considered it a manifestation from God that I was accepted with him, but after I became an infidel, I tried to account for it
::R1200 : page 7::
upon some scientific basis; but now, since this joy has returned to my heart, I am wondering, whether I should not count that hospital experience as a sort of conversion. I want your opinion of it, anyhow.”
We told him that to consider his first experience as his conversion would be a great mistake, one nevertheless very common among our Methodist friends. We pointed out that conversion is a change of mind, a change of will—from sin toward righteousness, from self and the world to God’s control, and pointed out that his will at that time, and for years previous, had been to serve the Lord, and was not in opposition to righteousness, and that the only hindrance to full harmony with God and full joy and peace before, had arisen from his being misinformed regarding the plan of salvation. Had he known the truth then, the truth would have made him free then, as it makes him free now—free from the doubts and fears which terrorized and prevented the joy and peace which belong to and must always accompany the knowledge of the truth, the knowledge of the facts of God’s good plan. And, we continued, we account for your remarkable experience of a change of feelings in that night as we account for many of the remarkable instances of sudden joy and peace found at Methodist mourners’-benches—we believe that the Lord took pity upon you in your heart-broken condition, and seeing that your distress, if not relieved, would kill you, and that your mind was so prejudiced by the traditions of men that the truths of his revelation could not reach you to give the proper relief, he graciously lifted the load in a miraculous manner.
But, Brother, what led to the loss of that first joy and peace? If you had been faithful, it would have continued—though not as an unaccountable joy without any foundation in reason. Had you confessed the Lord and sought his will and plan in his Word and consecrated yourself to the service of spreading it as you found it, you would surely have gotten a firm foundation for a brighter and enduring hope.
“Ah! I see now,” said he, “I was content to have the joy and peace, and neglected
::R1200 : page 8::
to build under it the firm foundation of God’s Word. I was so glad to be rid of those doubts and fears regarding my election, that I let reason go and did not seek to learn of the truth concerning the great divine election, nor did I ever tell of my joy and peace. I put my joy under a bushel instead of reasoning and searching out the truth. I was then unworthy of the favor and lost it.”
We pointed out, however, to the brother’s comfort, that while not blameless in the matter, he was not so blameworthy as though the clear light had shone brightly around him. We showed how he had merely followed in the footprints of the entire nominal church, including the ministers and elders and deacons, as sheep follow one another. Yet we pointed out that as his heart was honest, God never forsook him, but now, after allowing him to learn to reason and to follow unguided reason into the wilderness of infidelity, and after allowing him to taste and to fill himself with the husks of unbelief which only the swinish can really relish, had led him back home, and was now setting before him a royal feast of truth which his whetted appetite enabled him to relish far more than if he had never been led by his honesty of mind to doubt and deny the sectarian fallacies.
How many infidels are such honestly—driven from God and his Word by the errors of sectarianism, none can tell but God. The case of Brother Caldwell just related, the words of Prof. Huxley above quoted and the writer’s own case and others known to us, lead us to believe that some of the most honest are outside Babylon’s walls. The truth gives the foundation for faith, which consecrated and exercised reason demands; and when creeds and confessions of men, which sadly (though unintentionally) pervert and misapply God’s Word, have been shaken to pieces and consumed in the dreadful “fire” of infidelity, revolution and anarchism shortly to come upon Christendom, it will stand. And finally, in the times of restitution of all things, men shall learn to distinguish between God’s church built upon the rock of truth, and the sects of human organization built upon human traditions.
::R1200 : page 8::
THE SPIRIT OF TRUE REFORM
“There is nothing more essential to the success of any work of reform than that it be conducted in a manner which will recommend it to those whom it is seeking to influence. In other words, those who engage in such a work must do so with a proper spirit, in order to reap the result which is desired. This consideration is an important one, and especially so to us, engaged as we are in a great reform work which so vitally concerns the welfare of the human race.
What should be the spirit which should accompany the efforts of those engaged in the promulgation of the truths of the Plan of the Ages? From the nature of things, this work involves one in perpetual controversy with the ideas and forms of the theological world around him. It requires some discrimination and forbearance to confine the controversy to the ideas, and prevent its involving the persons who hold them. There is a strong tendency to forget that we are not combating persons, but the false beliefs which they teach. How easy under such circumstances to be led by the natural promptings of human nature, and fall into the error of the two disciples who wished to call down fire upon the ungrateful Samaritans, and to whom Christ rebukingly said, “Ye know not what spirit ye are of.”
The true reform spirit is never anything but a Christian spirit, leading its possessor to ever take an inoffensive attitude toward those whose erroneous opinions he feels called upon to oppose. It does not lead him to make use of ridicule and contempt, or to indulge in sharp drives at an opponent for the mere sake of showing his acuteness. It never leads him to show a lack of respect for those in positions of authority, albeit their characters may not be of the best, nor to forget that degree of deference which is due those in every position of eminence; but with all men to render “honor to whom honor is due.” Firm and uncompromising in its zeal for the truth, it combines with this a proper humility of self, and charity toward all. It is, in short, that spirit the possession of which will lead one to manifest “the fruits of the Spirit,” among which are, “long-suffering, gentleness, … meekness.”
It is a mistake to suppose, as many people evidently do, that absence of moral principle in an individual, however conspicuous and fraught with evil results, renders him a proper subject of hatred, ridicule and contempt. There is a certain respect which is due to all in positions of earthly eminence, regardless even of character. It may be seriously questioned whether Satan himself should ever be alluded to in other than terms of respect. Certainly if, as Jude has recorded, even “Michael the archangel, when contending with the Devil he disputed concerning the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee,” no mortal should venture to use language of such a nature in alluding to the same being; nor can it be proper to bring any railing accusation against an earthly opponent, whose motives we cannot judge, and with whom we stand upon a level as the recipients of God’s unmerited favor. Such a course is not in keeping with Christian dignity and integrity of character, and the cause of truth has no need of such doubtful aids to its advancement.
The study of the spirit and methods of the Lord and the Apostles would doubtless be profitable to those who are actively engaged in an important work of reform at the present time. In their forbearance under great provocations and persecution, the moderate and respectful language in which they addressed those in positions of authority, their strict regard for the truth, and their carefulness against giving needless offense, they have left an example worthy of our imitation. With an uncompromising zeal for the truth, they combined that Christian charity which led them to abstain from judging the characters and motives even of their bitterest opponents. It is by such a spirit and by such methods that the truth can be best commended to thinking minds.
—L. A. S.