I know not with what sentiments you will receive this address, nor what use you may make of it; my concern is with the sentiments and spirit that dictate it. I think they are such as will induce me continually to pray that you may not pierce yourself through with many sorrows, nor be left to mourn at the last.
Your friend and humble servant,
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FROM THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU TO THE REV. JOSEPH BUCKMINSTER.
PORTSMOUTH, JAN'Y. 1, 1810.
Rev. Sir,—The receipt of your affectionate, friendly address, bearing date December 28, 1809, is gratefully acknowledged, and although I have not words fully adequate to express the satisfaction I feel arising from the circumstance and spirit of your epistle, I cannot be willing to suppress my feelings so much as not to notice, that it is with uncommon pleasure that I appreciate your favour, which, I am happy to acknowledge, is a demonstration of that friendship first reciprocated at your house, and secondly recapitulated in your epistle. This friendship founded, as you justly observe, in the law of our common nature and in the spirit and principles of the christian religion, is such an inexhaustible treasure of moral riches that the aggregate sum of earthly wealth is poverty in the comparison.
This friendship, sir, being founded on such principles, will undoubtedly last as long as such principles remain; and if you are my real friend on the principle of the law of our common nature, so long as you possess the law of our common nature, you will be my real friend; and if you are my real friend, on the principles and spirit of the christian religion, so long as you possess the principles and spirit of the christian religion, you will remain my real friend. And if I be, as I trust in God I am, your real friend, on those imperishable principles, I shall continue to possess this friendship for you so long as I possess those principles. If these observations on friendship be correct, as I conceive they are, you will know why I so highly prize the treasure, especially when I find it in a man capable of exercising it to so much advantage as your learning, ability and experience enable you to do. You justly observe that neither piety nor friendship dictated the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" How different must have been the spirit which dictated that question from the spirit of him who saith, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, my mother's children were angry with me, they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept?
Your next observation is highly worthy, not only of general consideration, but of particular notice; and I am the more pleased with it on account of its falling from your pen as I am sure you must understand the truths which are necessarily connected with the one expressed in the observation; your words are, "there is a reciprocal responsibility among mankind both for the interest of time and eternity." As it cannot reasonably require any argument to discover the propriety of supposing that the eternal interest of mankind is connected with eternal causes and predicated on eternal principles, so when it is acknowledged that a reciprocal responsibility exists among mankind for their eternal interest, it is evident that this reciprocal responsibility is eternal. Should any conviction of mind render it necessary that we give up the idea of the eternal nature of this reciprocal responsibility, that conviction would drive the idea of eternal interest, predicated on such responsibility from our mind. How noble are your sentiments communicated in this observation! How rich must you and I feel in the enjoyment of such reciprocal principles and in the consequent interest arising from them; not only for time, but for eternity!
You very justly observe again—"Were I to see you or any others exposing themselves to danger or running into situations which I apprehended would be destructive, friendship would require me to warn and admonish, and to endeavour to restrain." These expressions, sir, illustrate the good fruits of real friendship, and as our Saviour has told us that the tree is known by its fruits, so we are to distinguish between real and pretended friends by their fruits. Suppose, sir, we move the position a little, and say, notwithstanding you warn me and endeavour to restrain me from danger, I persist in my error, and my calamity comes upon me; in this situation you come and tell me that you are heartily glad that I am tormented, and that you are glad to think there is no probability of my misery's being any less; that you feel no pity for me now; could I look back and remember your warning, and believe that you warned me out of real friendship? We have just seen that friendship predicated on the law of our common nature and on the principles and spirit of the Christian religion must necessarily be as durable as those eternal principles. It is no less the characteristic of real friendship to endeavour to meliorate than to preserve from sufferings.
On observing your admonitions, and believing you sincere in them, I am led to say, that had I such a friend as you are who possessed the means for making me eternally happy, I might entertain no doubt of obtaining the inestimable enjoyment; nor do I view you, sir, less a friend because you do not possess a power which is equal to the putting of all your friendly desires into full execution, but will acknowledge you my worthy friend, and accept the warnings which you give me against the system of doctrine which, as you say, I have embraced and come among this people to advocate, as a token of that friendship which would, if connected with suitable power, place me out of all final danger, or which would cause you to rejoice exceedingly, had you the evidence to believe that one who has such power possesses even stronger desires for my eternal welfare than you do.
You inform me that you do not know what system of Universalism I have embraced. Permit me, sir, to inform you, though you do not request it, that I have embraced the system of Universalism, which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob embraced, in believing God, who said, "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." If this faith of Abraham were imputed to him for righteousness, it must be a true faith, and if true, worthy to be embraced by all nations and families of the earth, without the exception of an individual. Permit me further to observe that I disclaim all authors as divine guides, except the divine author of those scriptures which cannot be broken.
You rightly apprehend me in supposing that I believe and teach that all mankind will be saved, restored and associated with Christ Jesus in realms of glory; but I do not believe as you intimate, that human ingenuity, or plausible and sophistic reasoning are necessary to the support of this doctrine among men; nor will I attempt to say how sorry I am that you should declare the doctrine not true until you had produced a "thus saith the Lord" to prove it false; or that you should intimate that I am employing human ingenuity or plausible and sophistic reasoning to support the universal benevolence of God until the disagreeable circumstance should transpire, in which I might be justly thus charged.
Although in order to please myself, I might explain your meaning as directed against some others of the advocates of the heavenly gospel of universal salvation; I could find but little satisfaction in thus endeavoring to avoid any reproach which is directed against the true disciples of my divine Master.
You inform me that as universal salvation is not true, "it can have no effect in quickening into life or of sanctifying the soul, for it is the spirit that quickeneth, and the truth, which sanctifies." If, dear sir, you do not believe that the spirit of salvation quickeneth into life, would it not have been proper to inform me what spirit does? And I should have highly esteemed an illustration of the evidence which you have, that the truth, that mankind will remain eternally unsanctified, will sanctify the soul! I fully believe that as far as any proposition is capable of being proved from the written word, or of being demonstrated by logical reasoning from acknowledged facts, the doctrine of the salvation of all men is capable of being proved and substantially maintained. Does it require human ingenuity or plausible and sophistic reasoning to make it appear from the scriptures that Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man; that he gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time; that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; that it is the will of God that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth; that he worketh all things after the council of his own will?—Does it require this ingenuity, &c. to substantiate from the written word that the promise to Abraham will be fulfilled, and that all nations whom God hath made shall come and worship before him and glorify his name; that Jesus will in the fulness of time, reconcile all things unto himself, whether they be things in heaven or things on earth, or things under the earth; that he will gather together in one all things in Christ both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him? If it be an acknowledged fact that God will bless all the families of the earth in Christ, that all nations which God hath made shall come and worship before him and glorify his name, that Jesus gave himseif a ransom for all men to be testified in due time, that he did by the grace of God taste death for every man, that he will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, that he hath made known the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he would gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, and that he worketh all things after the council of his own will, then the doctrine of the salvation of all men is as fully acknowledged as language can possibly express, or my error lies in not understanding the force of words and sentences.
By what method, sir, would it be proper for me to express my surprise at your introducing the words recorded in the 13th chapter of Ezekiel, and at the 22d verse, as a testimony against the doctrine of universal salvation? "Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad, and strengthened the hands of the wicked that he should not turn from his wicked way by promising him life;"—Must I suppose, sir, that you believe, that the lies mentioned in this quotation were promises of life in the seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed? I cannot believe this of a man of your understanding, and yet cannot conceive why you adduce this passage as proof that Christ is not the life of all men. Is it not evident that those who were addressed in that text were such as promised the people life in the vain traditions which they had established, by which they made void the law? And what does the Lord say that he would finally do in this case?—See verse 23d, "Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations; for I will deliver my people out of your hands, and ye shall know that I am the Lord." This is very far from saying that they should be endlessly miserable. Christ is the Lord our righteousness, and his heart was made sad by the traditions of the house of Israel and by the Rabbis who promised the people life in their vain customs which they had established for religion: and I would acknowledge this passage justly urged against the doctrine which I should vindicate, should I set up any thing but Christ and him crucified, on which to depend for life and salvation; but you leave this quotation as if you had done what you hardly meant to do, by observing that you do not intend to enter into a dispute on this subject, neither to enlarge on arguments to support your own sentiments nor to disprove mine.
You think that no good would result from the argument however temperately conducted it might be, assigning the pride of peculiarity, and the influence of party views as sufficient barriers to prevent success. In this observation may I say without offending, sir, you are inexplicit, or wanting in propriety, and premature in application. Temperate men are not governed in their religious researches by the pride of peculiarity nor the influence of party views, and a faithful trial ought to have been made in order to convince of error before the charge of pride of peculiarity, or the influence of party views, could with propriety have been made. I am disposed to believe when persons are candid and temperate in an investigation, they generally obtain light and edification. I will say for myself, notwithstanding I highly prize your solemn warnings, and believe them as proceeding from the most commendable sentiments of friendship, I should have been much pleased if you had accompanied them with the best and most forcible arguments of which you are master, against the doctrine which you are disposed to say in so many words "it not true." The small still voice to which you recommended my attention has never told me that Christ was not the Saviour of all men.
May we not suppose that this voice is uniform in its testimony? Do tell me, sir, if that voice ever told you that it was not the will of God that all men should be saved! Is it not by the influence of the spirit of this voice that you pray for the salvation of all men? And would this small still voice tell you that it is not God's will to save all men, and then induce you to pray for all men? If I be not a stranger to this heavenly voice which teaches me to wrap myself in my mantle, the Lord my righteousness, it influences me to pray in faith, nothing doubting, for the salvation of all men.
In your truly affecting entreaty you direct my mind to the day of judgment when I am called to give an account of my stewardship, and ask what my situation must be, if the system I advocate should in final evidence, prove false? I have seriously thought on this question; and this is my conclusion: My judge will know that I am, in this instance, honest and sincere; he will know how hardly I wrestled against his written word in order to avoid believing that he would save all men, and he will know that my deception was in understanding his word as a simple, honest man would understand a plain testimony void of scholastic dress. In this case I am willing to throw myself on the mercy of the judge. On the other hand, dear sir, I have made a calculation too. Suppose I adhere to your testimony, that the doctrine I believe is not true, and abandon it as a heresy, preach it down to the utmost of my ability, and the doctrine at last, when you and I stand before that judge who knows the hearts of all men, should in final evidence of the law and prophets, prove true, of which I have not the least shadow of doubt in my mind, with what a blush must I give up my account! My judge who has suffered every thing for me, asks me, why did you deny me, forsake my cause, and use the abilities which I gave you to preach that dishonourable doctrine that I did not redeem all men, or that I would not finally reconcile all men to myself, and cause them all to love me heartily in bliss and glory? I, abashed beyond description, must answer, a man, who, I conceived was my friend and who preached that God my Saviour, never intended to save all men, told me the doctrine I preached was not true! O, how would my soul thrill with grief when a look, such as was cast on Peter after he denied his Lord, should accompany this question, and who told you in the first place it was true?
I appeal to the searcher of hearts for the sincerity of my soul when I say, my dear sir, I feel an uncommon desire to cultivate friendship with you, and were it possible for me to gratify you in any thing that should be consistent with my duty to my God, I think I should not shrink from the service; but should the multitude, whose hearts have been made joyful in the salvation of all men, become so blinded as to renounce the sentiments, I must remain unshaken, until more than human testimony stands against the doctrine.
I am very sensible of the propriety of the observation, that the sincerity of a belief does not prove the thing believed to be true; for though I cannot say so much as you do, viz. "that I know how far men may be deluded and deceived," yet I am sensible that men may be deceived and yet be honest; and it is on this ground, that I have charity for those who believe and preach different from me.
Towards the conclusion of your epistle, you intimate that you wish not to have me say at last, when my doctrine issues in my mourning, that you had not warned me. Be assured, sir, if I may be so much at my own disposal at the last day, that I will not say, you did not warn me; but if my doctrine be false at last, and you are asked why you did not prove from the written word to my understanding that I was in an error, will you say in answer, that it would have been such a tax upon time, that you could not afford it, that you could not or did not wish to? As the passages which you quote on your last page are designed to illustrate what I believe to be a fact, I forbear, at this time, an illustration of them, in which, the impropriety of the common mode of understanding them might be made to appear. Should you be disposed to attempt to correct my ideas in this epistle, or my doctrine in general, by turning to the great touchstone, the law and the testimony, be as ample, sir, as your inclination and opportunity will admit. Every argument shall be duly attended to with prayerful solicitude to obtain conviction, if it can be found; and whatever light I gain I will gratefully acknowledge, and wherein I do not agree with you, I will give you my reasons.
Your most obliged friend and humble servant,
Rev. J. BUCKMINSTER.
P.S. If I have been so unfortunate, in the foregoing epistle make choice of any words which indicate too much freedom, please to impute it to a frankness which perhaps I sometimes indulge to a fault, and not to any want of due respect. H.B.
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LETTER III FROM THE REV. JOSEPH BUCKMINSTER TO THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU.
PORTSMOUTH, JAN. 10, 1810.
Dear Sir,—It was not my intention, in the letter which I sometime since addressed to you, to enter into a discussion of the subject of Universalism, much less, for reasons that were suggested, provoke a dispute upon it. I therefore endeavoured so to express myself that no reply should be necessary.
My object was to discharge what I thought a duty of friendship and affection, rendered more necessary by my personal declarations to you at my house, by stating to you with frankness and decision what I was persuaded would be the final result of that sentiment which you have embraced, and are advocating among us; and to fulfil a duty which I owe to myself, and to Him who has set me here to be a watchman, that I might use every proper precaution to appear before my Judge at last with unstained garments, preclude an occasion for a crimination and reproach, and give up my account with joy and not with grief.
I might have a secret hope that the apprehensions so seriously and candidly suggested might excite you to review your sentiments, and renewedly compare them with the only standard, and that this serious, calm and retired exercise might be accompanied with an influence from above, that might alter your views and conclusions upon the subject; but my principal design was to discharge what I thought my duty as above stated. You have thought it your duty to remark upon the address, and intimate an expectation that I should rejoin; your professions and candor have induced me for a time, to hesitate whether I ought not, in this instance, to depart from my general resolutions, and this hesitation has had influence in my delay to notice your letter. But the result of my hesitations, reflections and prayer, is a more full persuasion, that if the writings of Dr. Edwards, Dr. Strong and others who have discussed the subject, and which doubtless you have seen, have produced no hesitation or conviction in your mind, it would be vain and idle to expect it from any efforts of mine; and that it would be a misuse of time, which might be employed in more hopeful prospects of usefulness. This is a reason which I at present feel satisfied to give to God and my conscience for declining to enter upon a discussion of this subject, and I trust it will be accepted at the tribunal of God. To that tribunal I humbly and cheerfully refer the decision of the question that would be matter of dispute between us, from which decision there will be no appeal, and to which there will be no liberty to reply. I reciprocate the tender of every office of friendship consistent with what I think my duty to God and my conscience, and shall not cease to pray that those who have erred from the truth may be recovered from their errors, and being sanctified by the truth, may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your friend and well wisher.
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FROM THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU TO THE REV. JOSEPH BUCKMINSTER.
PORTSMOUTH, JAN. 11, 1810.
Rev. Sir,—Your favour of yesterday is acknowledged with that respectful submission which your age and experience, together with the spirit and import of your note justly impose, and with gratitude also, for an obligation which I wished to be under in being satisfied of your having received my epistle of the 1st inst. This I learn by the friendly rebuke in your first section in which you speak of my reply as unnecessary, and also by your condescending to refer to it again in your fourth section. Had I, sir, viewed your address altogether in the light which you inform me you did, or had you informed me that a reply would not be expected, I should by no means have troubled you contrary to your wishes. However, as you are an experienced judge of all such matters, so you will condescend to pardon me if in your judgment my epistle is destitute of important subjects. You are so kind as to repeat the design of your address again, certifying me that your object was to discharge the office of friendship, by stating to me with frankness and decision what you are persuaded will be the final result of that sentiment which I have embraced and am advocating. No man, sir, will ever be more ready to acknowledge a friendly office with sentiments of gratitude than your humble servant; but I am sure it cannot be expected by you, that I should receive the testimony of a man, however friendly to me, as a decision against that gospel which I did not receive of man, nor by man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Your precautions in warning me as they regard your final justification before God, I hope will be superceded by the acceptable atonement of the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world; though that shall not render your faithfulness void of approbation in a subordinate sense. The secret hope which you entertained of exciting me, by your serious apprehensions to review my sentiments and renewedly to compare them with the only standard, would perhaps appear not altogether so necessary, did you know that my daily business is to study the law and the testimony, which increase their light as they are more examined, and furnish every hour I study them, new proofs of the unbounded goodness of God to the sinful race of Adam. O my dear friend! Could you but know the inexpressible consolation and peace which I enjoy in believing that he, who gave himself a ransom for all men, will finally see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied, you could not feel concerned about the final issue of the doctrine which I believe and advocate!
I feel that my blessed Lord and kind Redeemer deserves every exertion of mine to persuade men to the knowledge of that truth which would make them free; nor can I easily forbear to express my desire that your greater experience and better abilities might be employed in shewing to poor benighted sinners the divine amplitude of gospel grace for the salvation of all mankind. I believe, dear sir, if it should please God to discover this soul rejoicing truth to you, that the angels would rejoice in heaven, and saints on earth would be made exceeding glad: yes, your church and parish would follow you with rapturous joy to the fountain which is open for Judah and Jerusalem to wash in from sin and uncleanness, and to which the fulness of the Gentiles shall be gathered.
I am not at all disposed to complain of your decision not to enter into an investigation of the doctrine against the truth of which you have opposed your testimony; though I should hardly have believed that in your judgment, such a testimony could have been thought proper unless preceded or succeeded by some colour of evidence. No man, my dear sir, is less calculated to enjoy a dry, unfruitful controversy on religious sentiments than I am—though I wish to hold myself in perpetual readiness to give an answer to every man who may ask me a reason for the hope that is within me with meekness and fear.
The arguments of Dr. Edwards and Dr. Strong being disposed to represent the divine economy of grace less extensive than the plain and positive promises of God, the testimony of the prophets, the word of life through Christ and the witnessing apostles, have declared it to be, stand forever refuted by that cloud of witnesses, as they are also by the spirit of Christ in every humble believing heart. It is far more easy for the rational lover of Christ to believe those learned doctors, deceived by the vain traditions of the schools, than to believe that the grace of God in Christ Jesus is less extensive than his word and spirit declare it to be.
If there never were a true Christian whose desires did not extend to the whole human race, that all might be brought to a saving repentance and to holy and happy life in Christ, then Jesus has never left himself without a witness in his disciples, that all the creeds of men which limit the divine favour are false. With whatsoever panics worms of the dust may have struck their fellow worms by challenging them to a decision of their weak, insignificant notions at a tribunal of an omnipotent judge, such solemn appeals can have but little effect on the humble mind who leans not to his own wisdom, and who views every thing already decided in the eternal system of that God whose tender mercies are over all the works of his hands.
The mode in which you express the circumstance of final judgment is rather indicative of what I hope you do not mean, as it intimates that too much freedom has been assumed by me in presuming to reply to your address. There is much to excite my gratitude in the assurance you give me of reciprocating offices of friendship, consistent with duty to God;—and while you, sir, give me to understand that I have an interest in your prayers, permit me to beg your supplications, that I may be faithful unto death; and to assure you of my humble desire that you may continue to be useful to your fellow pilgrims while you live, and find acceptance with God through Christ at last. Your most obliged friend and humble servant in Christ. HOSEA BALLOU.
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A NOTE FROM THE REV. DR. BUCKMINSTER TO THE REV. MR. BALLOU.
FRIDAY, P. M.
It is a duty which Mr. Buckminster owes to himself to declare that the thought of intimating that it was any assumption or presumption in Mr. Ballou to reply to his address, never once entered his mind; and he is sorry if any thing in Mr. Buckminster's communications could give ground to suspect such foolish vanity; but it confirms the correctness of the opinion, that disputes however temperately conducted are rarely productive of any good. All that he meant was that the decision at the tribunal of God would be final.
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A NOTE FROM THE REV. MR. BALLOU TO THE REV. DR. BUCKMINSTER, IN REPLY.
SATURDAY, P. M.
Mr. Ballou is happy to acknowledge the honour done him by the Doctor's note of Friday, P. M. by which he realizes the hope expressed in his epistle of the 11th inst, that what appeared to be intimated by the Doctor's letter of the 10th inst. in relation to final judgment was not meant. In the mean time Mr. Ballou thinks it a duty which he owes to himself to point out to the Doctor the items in his letter which were misunderstood. The Doctor's expression, "I therefore endeavoured so to express myself that no reply should be necessary," was understood to intimate that the reply was unnecessary; and the Doctor's expression, "there will be no liberty to reply," was understood to intimate that liberty had been assumed unnecessarily. In confirming the opinion, that "disputes however temperately conducted, are rarely productive of any good." Mr. Ballou thinks his mistake has produced but little consequence, as that opinion was so confirmed before, that even a reason for an assertion could not with propriety be given.
FROM THE REV. JOSEPH WALTON TO THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU.
PORTSMOUTH, Nov. 19, 1810.
Dear Friend,—I take this method to write to you, with a desire you would receive it as a friendly admonition. You recollect, no doubt, that I have heard you make two speeches at funerals, as they are commonly called, one at the grave and the other at the house of sorrow and mourning, upon a very solemn and singular occasion. At the grave you were short, and said, if I mistake not, viewing the grave, "this is the house appointed for all living," two or three times, and then said, "what reflection shall we make from it? is it done by an enemy? has the Almighty suffered the government to be taken out of his hands?"—and spake as if death was originally designed by the Almighty for the good of mankind, and made it a very desirable thing. My dear sir, doth not the bible, which is the word of God, or the scriptures of truth say, "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," Rom. v. 12, and Rom. vi. 23, "For the wages of sin is death." God who is a gracious and holy sovereign "made man upright, but he sought out many inventions." By listening unto that apostate spirit, Satan, he transgressed and disobeyed his maker and sovereign, by eating the forbidden fruit. "God made man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them. And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it; and the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it, for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shall surely die." Gen. ii. 15, 17. Sin is that enemy that introduced or was the cause of death, as we may further see by considering that portion of scripture, I John. iii. 8, "He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning." For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Sin is the work of the devil; "the soul that sins shall die." If you will read the whole chapter and seriously consider it, and pray to God through Jesus Christ to open your understanding, that you may understand the scriptures, you would not misappply and pervert them as I fear you do. In your speaking at the house of mourning, you began and spake very eloquently at first upon death; then you brought forward the same ideas, with respect to death, as you did before at the grave. I do not remember that you, at either place, spake one word of the necessity or nature of repentance. Christ began his personal and public ministry by preaching repentance, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"—again, "but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish," Luke xiii. 5. And after his resurrection from the dead he appeared to his disciples and confirmed them in the certainty of it, and chose them witnesses of the truth of it, and said "thus it is written, and thus it behoveth Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in my name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things," Luke xxiv. 46, 47, 48. The apostles, after Christ's ascension, practised as he commanded them, as we may see by reading the Acts of the apostles, Peter in particular, in the 2d and 3d chapters; and we do not find that they ever gave any encouragement that their hearers could or should be forgiven their sins without faith and repentance. Peter says, "Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;" which presupposes that if they did not repent and be turned to God by converting grace their sins would not be forgiven. Thus the apostle Paul preached, see Acts xxvi. 18, 19, 20, which I entreat you to read and seriously to consider. See likewise 20th chap. of the Acts of the apostles, how he appealed to the elders of the church; in the 17th verse it is written, "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church; and when they were come to him he said unto them, ye know from the first day I came into Asia after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations which befell me, by the lying in wait of the Jews; and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you and have taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." The apostles spake of the nature of repentance that they should bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and that Godly sorrow worked repentance to salvation, not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For a minister of the New Testament to advance such doctrine as will give hopes to their hearers that all will be happy in a future state, whether they have repented or no, is not preaching as Christ and his apostles preached. If we know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, what will be the consequence? See 2 Thes. i. 8, 9. Ministers are directed by the inspired apostle Paul; see in his epistles to Timothy and Titus. See 2 Tim. 4th chap. from 1st to the end, the 5th verse, which I would entreat and beseech you to read and seriously consider. He, in some of those verses referred to, says to Timothy, "Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine; for the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make proof of thy ministry." Paul was just about to leave the world; the time of his departure was at hand; the above were his dying words to his beloved son Timothy (in the faith.) The blessed and beloved apostle had through grace kept the faith, that is, the true faith of the gospel; he had finished his course, he had fought a good fight, and henceforth he says, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which God the righteous judge shall give me at that day; and not only to me, but unto all them also, that love his appearing. You, my friend, once professed the true faith of the gospel—have you kept it? I think not. I fear you have fallen from it. You are now preaching a doctrine which pleases the world, but it makes against you, according to scripture; the apostle John says, in 1st epistle, 4th chap, 5th and 6th verses, "They are of the world; therefore the world heareth them. We are of God; he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us; hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." I beseech you again, my friend, examine and seriously consider the first five verses of that chapter, and pray God through Jesus Christ that he would open it to your understanding: Solomon says, "My son, lean not to your own understanding." I could not but observe with what an emphasis you at the grave mentioned those selected texts of scripture which you supposed would confirm your hearers in the doctrine of Universal Salvation. Would Christ or the apostles preach Universal Salvation in one place of scripture, and in another contradict it? I believe they would not. I am an old man, and have studied the scriptures twenty or thirty years; yea, I may say more or less from my youth up; I find it the best way of study, to compare scripture with scripture; to consider the preceding and following context; to be self-diffident; and to be much in prayer, that it would please God, by his holy spirit, to lead and guide us into all necessary truth; and I do not think it amiss to use sound authors, for as we are in some measure dependant on one another for temporal, so I think we may, under God, be for spiritual assistance; though by no means to put our trust in an arm of flesh.
We may observe how earnest David in prayer to God was in the 25th Psalm. He was a prophet as well the royal Psalmist, yet he comes in a very humble manner to God in prayer that he would shew him his ways, and teach him his paths; and in that Psalm, 8th verse, says, "good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek he will teach his way." But if men will undertake to explain scripture in their own strength and wisdom, what must we expect but to have them mangled and made havoc of, or explained in a mere mystical or literal sense? "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." See I Cor. ii. 14.
As you did not say any thing about the resurrection of the dead in either of your speeches, I began to query in my mind whether you believed it or no. I think, yea, I know, it was preached by Christ, and explained so as to confute the Sadducees. Our Lord says, "Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." St. Paul in his defence before the Roman governor when accused by an orator, whom the Jews employed, as he was allowed to speak for himself, said, "they cannot prove the thing, whereof they now accuse me; but this I confess after the way which they call heresy; so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets, and have hope towards God, which they themselves also allow; that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; and herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward man." We may observe what an influence the belief of a future state of rewards and punishments had on the blessed apostle to excite him to live a godly and self-denying life. In 2 Cor. v. 10, 11, speaking of a day of judgment, "when every one must give an account for himself as the deeds have been done in the body, that every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done whether it be good or bad;" and says, "knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." My friend, is there the least room for us to believe from this scripture and many others, that the wicked who have died impenitent and in a disbelief of the gospel or without the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent, have eternal life, in the fruition and enjoyment of God? Heaven consists in being made like God, and enjoying him: hence it is, that the pious thirst for God, the living God, saying, when shall I come and appear before him? Again, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee. My flesh and heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever." These pious breathings are the exercises of the children of God. O may they be ours.
PORSTMOUTH, Nov. 19, 1810.
P. S. The within, enclosed, my friend, I can assure you was not written to you in this manner, as God is my judge, from an envious and bitter spirit, for I love and esteem your person, as a friend, who has, from my first acquaintance with you, treated me with great respect. I see, on the Lord's days, great numbers of precious souls going and returning from your meeting; and, as far as I know my own heart, I do not envy you for that; but have often prayed that the gifts and natural abilities you have might be sanctified and turned into right improvements, which is the glory of God and the saving benefit of your hearers. May it please God to make you an able and faithful minister of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. From your friend and humble servant, JOSEPH WALTON, _Pastor,
Of the Independent Congregational Church in Portsmouth_.
TO MR. HOSEA BALLOU, PASTOR OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH AND SOCIETY IN PORTSMOUTH.
Sir,—You may observe by the date, the letter has been written some time; but by several avocations I have not had time to correct and copy it until the present date, December 7, 1810.
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FROM THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU TO THE REV. JOSEPH WALTON.
PORTSMOUTH, DEC. 11, 1810.
Rev. Sir,—It is with pleasure that I hasten to acknowledge the receipt of your "friendly admonition," bearing date December 7th, which came to my hand late last evening, which I assure you is accepted as a token of friendship, and a mark of particular attention; and merits, as I conceive, a grateful acknowledgement as well as an early answer.
Your admonition begins by taking notice of what you conceive an egregious error which you have heard me suggest at two several funerals. You say that I "spake as if death was originally designed, by the Almighty, for the good of mankind." This statement you consider of such a dangerous nature that it renders an admonition necessary. But, dear sir, there are two important ideas contained in the above short sentence, and you have not distinguished between them, nor informed me whether it be both, or only one which is thus reprehensible.
That God originally designed death, is one idea; that he designed it for the good of mankind is another idea. In order to do you justice and to attach no other meaning to your communication than such as I conceive to be consistent with your real sentiments, I must suppose that you would not wish to fault the first of those ideas, as it is an item in your creed, that "God foreordained whatsoever comes to pass;" of course, you believe that God originally designed death. But, that God designed death for the good of mankind, I do not know it to be an article of your faith, and therefore, may, without doing you any injustice, suppose that you believed that God originally designed death, but not for the good of mankind! Here, sir, I acknowledge that my sentiment differs from yours; and as you have given me no reason why God should not have designed death for the good of mankind, I have only to consider the "friendly admonition," with which you oppose my idea. I would query why the idea that God should design death for the good of mankind renders me justly admonishable? Would the idea, should I avow it, that God designed death for the damage of mankind, render me commendable? So, it seems; but at this expense I cannot avoid admonition! I would further query what interest God could have consulted which required him to design death for a damage to those creatures whom he made subject to death? And I think it expedient to ask how God can be justified, in the sight of his rational creatures, if the idea be once established that he designed evil against them, even before they existed?
I feel it to be my duty, dear sir, to call on you to support this high allegation against the Father of our spirits. I would not pretend that you designed to bring an allegation against our Creator, but I am satisfied that every unprejudiced mind must see the nature of an allegation in what you are disposed to maintain. For if we say God, our Creator, designed death for the damage of those dependent beings whom he has made, it is giving him a character which, I believe, the wisest of men would find it difficult to justify.
Again, if the notion be true, that God designed death for the damage of mankind, is it not from hence evident that he was an enemy to mankind when he thus designed? Now, if God be considered an enemy to mankind even before he made them, I wish to know what reason can be given why mankind ought to love God since creation?
In relation to a number of scriptures which you have quoted, seemingly with a design to illustrate the foregoing subject, I can only say, that if any or all those passages relate at all to the subject, that relation is out of my sight. And I can truly say, that I am glad that there is nothing, in any part of the scripture, so contrary to good sense and reason as to support the notion that God is an enemy to the works of his own hands. I believe, sir, if I prove from scripture that God designed death for the good of mankind, it must be considered a substantial support of what you wish to oppose; and will also be considered as placing the scripture doctrine on the most reasonable principle.
1st. I will show that death is not a token of God's enmity towards mankind. As a proof of this, see Rom. viii. 38, 39, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This passage is a full and positive proof that neither death nor any thing else, is a token of God's enmity to mankind.
2d. I will now show that death was designed by God for the good of men. Which to do, I must learn of Jesus. He is the truth. Was his death designed, by the eternal Father, for the good of mankind, or not? Was his death a token of God's love to the world, or was it a token of his enmity? See Rom. v. 8, "But God commendeth his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." This same apostle, believing in Christ, who, he says, was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification, in a short, but comprehensive inventory of the things which are ours, has placed death among them. See 1 Cor. iii. 21, 22, 23, "Therefore, let no man glory in men: for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." Again, he says, to the Phil. i. 21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Nothing appears more evident than that the death of Christ was designed for the good of mankind; and as he is the head of every man, so his death is considered, in the scriptures, a gracious benefit to every man; as the apostle expresses it, "That he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man." And again, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ, shall all be made alive." Who can impartially consider those scriptures and suppose that God designed death for a damage to mankind? I view death, sir, as an appointment of God, a friendly messenger, sent to dissolve a tabernacle of corruption and vanity, at the dissolution of which, "the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit unto God who gave it."
Your admonition in the next place suggests, that "if" I "will read the whole chapter (meaning the 3d chapter of the 1st of John) and seriously consider it, and pray to God, through Jesus Christ, to open" my "understanding, that" I "may understand the scriptures," I "would not misapply and pervert them, as" you "fear" I "do."
Rev. Sir, are you sufficiently acquainted with my preaching and writing on the scriptures to warrant the propriety of the suggestion, that I am in the habit of misapplying and perverting the holy writings? Are you sufficiently acquainted with my retired studies and religious exercises to warrant the suggestion that I get along without acknowledging the wisdom of God? I humbly request you to reconsider this part of your admonition, and see if it do not wear the appearance of judging another who must stand or fall to his own master. In the mean time I wish to observe, that a friendly advice to be constant in fervent supplication and prayer would be received by me as a mark of christian friendship and fellowship. But I will ask you the question, if you would be willing to have me go into your desk with you in presence of your church and congregation, and there read the whole of the above named chapter, then in humble and solemn prayer to Almighty God, through Christ Jesus, implore a just and true understanding of his word and truth contained in that portion of his written will, and close my performance with a candid dissertation on the chapter? Grant me liberty to do this in your hearing; after which I will not object to your pointing out any misapplication or perversion which you may think you discover. By what law is a man condemned without first hearing his defence?
Again, your admonition suggests, that I did not, at either of the funerals where you heard me perform, speak one word of the necessity or nature of repentance. In this particular I believe you made a mistake at both places, which mistake, I believe I can rectify to your recollection. In the first place, I wish to observe that I as much believe in those scriptures which speak of the necessity of repentance as I do in any part of the sacred writings. But, after all, you and I may entertain very different ideas respecting the preaching of repentance. The opinion that repentance is preached when a public speaker tells his congregation that their eternal salvation depends on their repentance, that eternal misery must inevitably be their doom unless they repent is an opinion to which I have no reason to subscribe.
Preaching repentance, I conceive is teaching men and giving them such divine instructions as bring their minds to discover more glorious things than the sins and carnal vanities of this world; which teaching produces a returning of the mind to the things of God and his ever blessed kingdom. The word repent may or may not be used in the giving of such instructions. I conceive a preacher of Jesus Christ, warmed with the spirit of eternal love, breathing forth the gracious words of truth, may successfully preach repentance as well without the use of the word repent as with it. At both those places of sorrow, dear sir, I endeavoured to lead the mourners' minds to the consideration of eternal things; I endeavoured to represent God our Creator and Governor, as a friend to his creatures, and strove to the utmost of my power to fix the love, regard and confidence of our mourning friends on God our Creator. This you will recollect, and I cannot suppose that you believe that a person can truly believe in the divine goodness, and love his Creator as the greatest good, and put confidence in him, so as to draw consolation, in the day of adversity, from such confidence, and still be a stranger to true penitence.
The many scriptures which you have judiciously quoted to prove the propriety of the doctrine of repentance are justly applied, as I conceive; and I accord with you in their use and meaning as far as you have explained them. I would wish to be understood that whenever repentance is spoken of as a creature act, originating in creature agency, it is represented directly contrary to the scripture sense as expressed in Acts v. 31, "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."
From the above passage it is evident that repentance is no more dependent on creature agency than the forgiveness of sins; and the idea that repentance is a grant of divine favour is plainly expressed in Acts xi. 18, "Then hath God also, to the Gentiles, granted repentance unto life." By the above testimonies the idea that repentance is a creature condition, on which the divine favour is bestowed, is proved erroneous.
The next particular which your "friendly admonition" occupies, is the subject of Universal Salvation in the following words: "I could not but observe with what emphasis you, at the grave, mentioned those selected texts of scripture which you supposed would confirm your hearers in the doctrine of Universal Salvation. Would Christ or the apostles preach Universal Salvation in one place of scripture, and in another contradict it? I believe they would not." In the above particular, sir, I agree with you in all which you express. I do not believe that Christ or any of his apostles ever contradicted the glorious doctrine, in which they all preached of Universal Salvation. And until this contradiction can be shewn in their preaching, you and I have full liberty to believe in God as "the Saviour of all men." Christ gave himself a ransom for all men; tasted death for every man; is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. He says he will draw all men unto him, and he also says that "him that cometh after me I will in no wise cast out." St. Paul says that God will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. To which testimony we might add an immense number of scriptures from the Old and New Testaments; and as you agree that Christ and his apostles would not preach Universal Salvation in one place, and contradict it in another, so you must, of necessity subscribe to the uniformity of the scripture doctrine in the Salvation of all men.
You inform me, that you are an "old man;" this I was sensible of before, in consequence of which, I have more particularly endeavoured to cultivate an acquaintance with you, since I have been in this town; for I conceive that the aged are not only entitled to the respects and attention of the younger, but the younger are also entitled to the advantages of their experience and wisdom.
You further tell me, that you have studied the scriptures twenty or thirty years. On this account, sir, I covet earnestly your assistance; for although I have studied the scriptures almost constantly twenty years out of less than forty, yet I find but a few who are notable to assist me in this agreeable employment. The happy method which you recommend, I have for many years endeavoured to observe, for I am sure that most of the vulgar errors, in respect to the scriptures, are for the want of a careful examination of all which is said on the same subjects.
Wherein you recommend the pious example of the prophet David, I fully accord in it, and would humbly hope and strive to be a partaker of the benefits arising from such an example.
What you say of men's explaining scripture in their own Strength and wisdom, and of their making havoc of, and mangling them by explaining them in a mystical or literal sense, I find myself rather embarrassed about. You begin your epistle under the character of a "friendly admonition," but what you mean by accusing me of the folly of mangling and making havoc of the scriptures when you do not attempt to show wherein I ever explained a passage wrong, I must leave for you to explain when it is convenient. Nor is it easy for me to understand you when you represent both the mystical and literal explanation of scripture equally erroneous. You immediately conclude those observations with the following quotation: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him." Did you mean that the natural man, supposing the things of the spirit of God to be foolishness, would say that the spirit mangled and made havoc of the scriptures? This could not be your meaning.
Your concluding query is the following; "My friend, is there the least room for us to believe from this scripture (meaning 2 Cor. v. 10, 11) and many others, that the wicked who have lived impenitent and in a disbelief of the gospel, or without the true knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ whom God hath sent, have eternal life in the fruition and enjoyment of God?" This query I will endeavour to answer as plainly as possible.
1st. Unless we grant that a man has eternal life in Jesus Christ, given him before the foundation of the world, we cannot justly call him an unbeliever because he does not believe he has this eternal life in Christ. Nor can we say, with the least propriety, that he does not know the truth, because he does not know that which is not.
2d. If we allow that a man has eternal life in Christ, we must allow him to be an unbeliever if he do not believe it; and that he does not know the truth as it is in Jesus, if he be ignorant of this gift of eternal life.
3d. While a man is in a state of unbelief he is not in the enjoyment of the truth.
I conceive, sir, these observations must appear reasonable to any reasonable man; and therefore I suppose they will appear reasonable to you.
The passage in Corinthians alluded to, fully refutes the notion of endless rewards and punishments; for there it is stated, that "every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Now as this same apostle tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, if he mean that all who have sinned must be endlessly punished, he cannot mean that any of the human race will be eternally blessed according to their own works, nor yet according to the grace of God. And you, sir, cannot but see if one sinner can be rewarded according to his works and yet be saved by grace through faith, and that not of himself, but by the gift of God, all the sinners of Adam's race may be thus rewarded according to what they have done either good or bad, and yet be saved by grace as above.
Your suggestions respecting the resurrection require no other answer than that I profess to believe in the doctrine of the resurrection as taught by the scriptures, though I cannot flatter myself that that opinion agrees with the opinion of what you call sound authors. For myself, I call the writers of the holy scriptures sound authors, and those who differ from them I am willing to call orthodox according to our common schools of divinity. I join with you in a humble desire that the holy breathings of the true children of God may be yours and mine; and I am sensible if they be we shall not judge one another, nor condemn one another; but strive for the unity of the spirit in the bonds of divine peace. Yes, sir, I am confident that the true temper and spirit of the gospel, if possessed and practiced by the public ministers in this town, would lead them to open their doors to each other, to meet together and pray, preach, sing and exhort, in love and fellowship; but Antichrist's spirit is directly the reverse.
The assurance you give me in your postscript, that what you wrote to me was not written in an envious spirit is duly appreciated; nor do I much wonder that you do not envy me the numbers who attend my public ministry, while you suppose that they with innumerable multitudes of others are reprobated to endless sin and misery. Envy, in such a case, would be truly unaccountable! I will not say that I fully comprehend your meaning in calling the "great numbers" who attend my meeting, "precious souls." Why are they precious? To whom are they precious? If you view them the objects of divine love, of course you must suppose them to be precious in God's sight; but if not, why do you call them precious?
Your flattering acknowledgements of civilities received from me and the acceptableness of my person to you, is very gratefully considered, for it is an object with me to deserve the approbation of the pious who have treasured up much valuable knowledge by experience; and I wish to give you the fullest assurance possible that I consider my acquaintance with yourself highly worthy of further cultivation and improvement, which I shall always endeavour to promote, as opportunity may present, and it shall please you to favour.
Having noted the most important sections of your "friendly admonition" in as concise a manner as was convenient, permit me, dear sir, to make a few observations on the doctrine of Universal Salvation, that being a subject to which you allude in your epistle, though you did not see fit to plant any particular arguments against it. This doctrine I openly profess, and preach as a doctrine which I conceive is plainly taught in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; a doctrine which all good men in the world desire the truth of; a doctrine the most worthy of God of any ever published; a doctrine the best calculated to fill the soul of the believer with love to God and to our fellow creatures; a doctrine which harmonizes the divine attributes, the scriptures and every principle of reason and good sense, in a surprising and an astonishing manner; a doctrine, more than any other, calculated to destroy the hurtful animosities existing in the religious world; and to produce general fellowship and brotherly love; and in a word, I believe it to be the only doctrine which can be supported by reason or scripture, to a mind not improperly biased by tradition. Though I am sensible of your greater experience, yet I am willing to say to a man of your piety and Christian candor, that any arguments which you should see cause to lay before me, on the above subject, shall, by the blessing of God, receive an early attention and a judicious discussion.
In the spirit of the New Testament and not in the letter; in the spirit of life, and not in the death of the letter, in the spirit of salvation, and not of condemnation, I pray God, I may ever live and act according to your friendly desire; and feeling the same fervent desire for my highly esteemed and venerable friend, I acknowledge myself your most obliged and very humble servant, for Christ's sake.
Rev. Joseph Walton.
P.S. I have reserved three particulars in your "friendly admonition" for the subject of another communication.
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From the Same to the Same.
Portsmouth, Jan. 5, 1811.
Rev. Sir,—Having notified you in a postscript of my letter of Dec. 11th, that I had reserved three particulars in your "friendly admonition" for the subject of another communication, I am disposed to embrace this opportunity to fulfil my engagement. The three particulars reserved are expressed, in your letter, in the following words:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. You, my friend, once professed the true faith of the gospel—have you kept it? I think not. I fear you have fallen from it. You are now preaching a doctrine which pleases the world, but it makes against you according to scripture. The apostle John says in his 1st epistle 4th chapter 5th and 6th verses, They are of the world; therefore the world heareth them; we are of God; he that knoweth God, heareth us, he that is not of God, heareth not us; hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." I would not, dear sir, knowingly misapply your words, nor make a use of the above quotation contrary to their most plain and evident sense which I conceive is as follows:
1st. The doctrine which I believed before I believed as I do now, is the true gospel according to the testimony of the apostle John, in his 1st epistle, 4th chapter 5th and 6th verses.
2d. That in believing as I now do, I have fallen from that faith, and turned unto fables.
3d. My now preaching a doctrine which pleases the world is good proof that my doctrine is not of God, and that those who hear me are justly described by the apostle as heaping to themselves teachers having itching ears.
In the first place I shall agree with you in the supposition that when I first made a profession of religion, I believed the true gospel.
In the second place I shall endeavour to show that I have not fallen from that faith.
In the third place I will attempt to show that the evidence, which you think makes against me, is by no means sufficient to prove that the doctrine I now believe and preach is consistent with the lusts of the world or contrary to the true faith of the gospel.
1st. The true faith of the gospel as expressed in 1 John, 4th, &c. is as follows—see verse 2, 3, "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." The apostle here states in the most simple terms the true Christian faith, and brings it into such a short compass that none can mistake him. The belief that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is the true faith, and a denial of that fact is a false faith.
When I first professed religion I professed to believe that "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh;" and this I am willing to say now is the true faith of the gospel, and the only article of faith which constituted a Christian believer in the opinion of the apostles; restricting this belief, at the same time, to Jesus of Nazareth, that he was the Christ.
2d. I as much believe now as I ever did that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. I have as clear evidences now as I ever had that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. These things being facts, the conclusion is that I have not fallen from the true christian faith.
3d. The above faith I preach, believing and testifying that God sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world; and I have reason to bless God that such feeble means are at all prospered, and that as you observe, "Great numbers of precious souls" adhere to the word, which I conceive is no evidence that the faith I preach is not of God, or that it is consistent with the lusts of the world. We are informed in the word of God, that the common people heard Christ gladly. Who did not hear him gladly? Answer, the Scribes and Pharisees. Do you think, sir, that the common people's hearing Christ gladly was a justifiable evidence to the Pharisees that he was not the true Messiah? When many thousands of men, women, and children flocked from their cities into desert places to hear the gracious words which proceeded from the lips of him who spake as never man spake, was it a justifiable evidence that he and his doctrine were not of God? To bring this matter, if possible, nearer home, should you find your meeting house crowded with hearers who expressed in their countenances an approbation of the doctrine which you preach, would it be sufficient evidence to convince you that your doctrine was not of God?
That the testimony that God sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world is not consistent with the lusts of the world, is shown by St. Paul to Titus; "For the grace of God which bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world."
I have not the least doubt in my mind, that if you and I preached more like our blessed master than we do, people in general, would be more engaged to hear us, and our meeting houses would be more thronged than they are now.
Should you hear a shepherd complaining that the increase of his flock was small, or that it rather diminished, you would think that evidence made against him.
I suppose the particular idea which you had in view, which constitutes, in your mind, an Apostasy, is, that Jesus Christ, who was manifested in the flesh, will, pursuant to power given to him of his father, save all men from their sins, and reconcile all things unto himself. This idea, I acknowledge, I did not see clearly in, when I first made a profession of a belief in Christ; but now am fully persuaded in it. However, I cannot see why the adopting of this particular idea should be called an Apostasy.
I will, sir, mention some similar cases, not wishing however, to be considered an equal subject to the personage whom I shall introduce. The apostle Peter was a believer in the true faith of the gospel, that is, he believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God: and Jesus says to him, on that confession, that flesh and blood had not revealed it to him, but his Father. This belief Peter had before he believed that Christ should suffer on the cross and rise from the dead. After many trials and dreadful temptations in which this poor, dependent brother of ours experienced the fallibility of all human strength, he was privileged with positive evidence of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.—Here I ask, was this new acquisition in Peter's faith an apostasy? Was it not an advancement? You will agree with me in this.
Again, this same apostle, even after he was endowed with power from on high, and preached and healed in the name of Jesus, did not know that the Gentiles were fellow heirs and of the same body, and partakers of the promises of God, in Christ, by the gospel. It was not until the angel of the Lord appeared unto Cornelius and directed him to send for Peter, that God gave to that apostle the knowledge of the fact which he acknowledged to Cornelius, that God had shewed him that he should call no man common or unclean. It is very evident that the apostle Peter had more extensive knowledge of the gospel of the grace of God in consequence of the vision of the sheet by the sea of Joppa than he had before; but would any real Christian, knowing all the circumstances, suppose that Peter had apostatised from the true faith, because he believed that millions would be benefited by Christ more than were comprehended in his former belief? While they who were of the circumcision remained ignorant of the revelation given to Peter, we find they "contended with him, saying, thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them." But when Peter had "rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, they held their peace and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles, granted repentance unto life." Thus we see that the church in Jerusalem, who were of the circumcision, though believers in Christ were, until Peter's defence further enlightened them, ignorant of the extension of divine grace to the Gentiles through the gospel. But surely no real Christian would suppose that this enlargement of their faith in the great salvation was an apostasy from the true faith!
With profound deference, sir, permit me to suggest, that should the foregoing observations present yourself, to your own mind, in a similar situation with those of the circumcision, yet they acknowledge you a believer in Christ, a minister of his word and a candidate for greater manifestation of that grace of God by which Jesus tasted death for every man.
I believe I may venture to say that unless the belief that God is not the Saviour of all men can be maintained by positive scripture as an essential article of apostolic faith, I cannot be justly admonished for falling from the true faith. May I not, with great propriety, call on my Rev. friend to show, if he can, that such an article of faith was ever required by Christ or his apostles as a term of christian fellowship and charity?
Let us look into the written word of God and see what is there required of us to believe. See Rom. x. 9, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Acts viii. 37, "And Philip said if thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Matt. x. 32. "Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my father which is in heaven." Luke xii. 8, "Also I say unto you, whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God." Not to multiply quotations, permit me to query whether there be in those passages, or in any other scripture on the same point any intimations given that the candidate must believe that this precious Saviour will not, through the peace made by the blood of his cross, reconcile all things to God? Are you fully satisfied, dear sir, that you are authorised to admonish as an apostate, one who confesses with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and who believes in his heart that God hath raised him from the dead? Why did not Philip demand of the Eunuch a particular confession of a belief in limited grace and salvation? Was there not the same authority to require this article of faith then, as there is now? If Jesus hath promised, in his word, that he will confess before his Father in Heaven, whosoever confesseth him before men are you satisfied with the authority by which you denounce, disfellowship, and deny those little ones? The thought is truly solemn! I feel a chill in every vein of my body, when I consider the vain traditions of a corrupted church, in which it has long been a religious habit to anathematise those who confess Christ before men, because they cannot believe in certain tenets never required by Christ or his apostles!
Rev. Sir, I can say in the sincerity of my soul, that I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the true Christ, I believe him to be the Son of the living God, who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification. And though I feel myself the most unworthy of the subjects of salvation, yet I should be ungrateful not to acknowledge the goodness of God my Saviour. Whatever men may think or say of me, I know that my soul experiences joys unspeakable in sweet meditations on the glories and inexpressible beauties of my Redeemer; and the thought that I am owned as his child before the angels of God, is infinitely better than to receive the approbation of men who are disposed to judge without knowing the heart.
If the Christian clergy were once disposed to strip their creeds and confessions of faith till they were reduced to the simplicity that is in Christ, and require no other belief than Christ and his apostles required, there would be an end at once of all the discord and animosity which have wounded the character of Christianity for ages. And the prayer of the blessed Jesus would be fulfilled in the oneness of all who believe in him, which would convince the world that the Father sent him.
Although you have not yet found it convenient to favour me with any observations on my former letter, I have not done expecting it. And I shall endeavour to hold myself in readiness to pay an early attention to any communication which shall come from your hand. In hopes that nothing contained in this letter will be considered inconsistent with the true spirit of a humble believer in Christ, I remain, sir, your humble servant, for Christ's sake.
Rev. JOSEPH WALTON.
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FROM THE REV. JOSEPH WALTON TO THE REV. HOSEA BALLOU.
PORTSMOUTH, JAN. 11, 1811.
Sir,—I have received your answer to my letter sent you, dated Dec. 7, 1810, and now desire to answer it, in the fear of God, in as concise a manner as I am capable, agreeable to the scriptures of truth. Sir, I thank you for the civilities you manifest toward me, and that you received my letter in a friendly manner as I think I sent it, wishing it might be received and improved for your benefit; not that I supposed that I was capable of convincing or confuting you of what I conceive to be erroneous in your doctrine or principles, but relying on the blessing of God to make it effectual for your everlasting good, and those you profess to be over in the Lord.
I shall not take into consideration every argument you make use of, but shall give it a general answer. Since I have received it I have had a great number of scriptures occuring to my mind which I might quote if I thought expedient. In the first place you speak or write as if I thought death was originally designed by the Almighty for the damage of mankind; I say death was threatened to be the consequence, if mankind did transgress the law of their Creator; our first parents transgressed, and the penalty was executed according to the threatening, "Thou shall surely die;" they were condemned to die; they were under sentence of death; they became spiritually dead, immediately; they lost the knowledge of their Creator; darkness covered their minds; they endeavoured to hide themselves from God among the trees of the garden; they brought misery upon themselves and upon their posterity; we feel the woeful effects of their fall and apostasy until this day; by nature we are spiritually dead; as it is written, "you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." Sir, if there is a law made by our legislature, is there not a penalty annexed unto it? If that law is transgressed, is not the person who transgressed punished some way or other?—Yet the law is made for the good of the whole; the legislature is not to be impeached, as if he made it for the damage of his people, whom he governs; the law-breaker is punished either in his own person or his surety, though the pain, shame and punishment is for the damage of the transgressor, yet the law is for the good of the whole, and the law maker is not in the least to blame; the transgressor also, if he repents and is reformed, is benefited by it, &c.
I think, sir, your giving your hearers encouragement in your preaching that Christ will save them all, whether they repent and believe the gospel or no, is of a dangerous nature. Christ has said, "if ye believe not that I am he ye shall die in your sins," John viii. 24. Read, if you please, the proceeding context. The decrees of God, you say, is my creed, and that I believe that God foreordained whatsoever come to pass. I do not think I ever told you so. And so you think God foreordained, according to my creed, death, for a damage to his creatures. I have said death is punishment for sin, as I wrote, and I can maintain it from scripture; death was introduced by sin; the person that lives a life of sin and dies without regenerating grace, which all true believers in Christ have, will be miserable, and be "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power." I believe every true believer is a true penitent, is regenerated, is in Christ by a vital union is a "new creature," and that those persons will be saved and none else, according to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. I believe that God the Father worketh all things according to the council of his own will; that his redeemed and saved people should be to his glory. You say, in my writing to you, I said, "do you think Christ or his apostles would preach universal salvation in one place of scripture and contradict it in another? I believe they would not."—Here you designedly, I think mistake; I do not believe that Christ or his apostles ever did preach universal salvation, that is, that every son and daughter of apostate Adam, would be saved. I believe that this gospel of the kingdom is to be preached to every creature, and "whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Do me justice, sir; do not animadvert upon what I have just quoted, as if I think our Saviour is to be understood as if every individual would have the privilege of hearing the gospel. I conceive that the apostles' commission runs thus: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every human or rational creature."—What I meant by saying, do you think Christ would preach universal salvation in one place, and in another contradict it, is, that those texts which you suppose supports your doctrine, is not to be understood as you apply them; for if they prove universal salvation, as you would have them, then they will contradict many texts which Christ and his apostles improved otherwise; therefore I still assert, that the scriptures ought to be carefully examined, conscientiously improved and applied. The faithful minister of Christ will renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, commending themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. "For we are not as many which corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ."—See 2d Corinthians, ii. 17. And I would take it as a favour, if you would read the 15th and 16th verses in the same chapter, and seriously consider them. Those texts of scripture, which you have quoted from Rom. 8th chapter, are not to be applied as you apply them, neither doth the apostle apply them so. And methinks you know they are not, if you consider the connexion from the 28th verse of the chapter to the end. And that passage of scripture quoted from 1 Cor. iii. 21, 22, 23, is only to be applied to real Christians; and this, sir, I presume you know; but it would not suit you and your scheme of Universal Salvation to apply them so.
I would ask you, if, when I am writing a letter or an epistle to Mr. Hosea Ballou, it would be proper for me to apply what I write in particular to you, concerning your affairs or circumstances, to the whole world? Ministers of Christ should rightly "divide the word;" and should take the precious from the vile; then they would be as God's mouth to the people. See Jeremiah xv. 19, see likewise, Ezekiel xiiv. 23, "The priests of the Lord are to teach the Lord's people the difference between the holy and the profane," and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean;" it is by this general way of preaching, errors are introduced, not only by your denomination, but by others also. I could multiply quotations from the Bible, both from the Old and New Testaments, but what would it avail, unless you will consider them and endeavour to improve them, and apply them as the Holy Ghost would have us to to? "For holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," see 2 Peter i. 25. You say, you were somewhat embarrassed in understanding what I meant when I wrote that men undertaking to explain the scriptures in their own strength and wisdom, and their making havoc of them, &c. by explaining them in a mystical or literal sense. I will endeavour to explain what I meant—1st. To allegorize the scriptures in a mere moral or mystical sense, or altogether in a figurative sense, is a degree of enthusiasm, (as to say there is no devil but our carnal nature, &c.) and in a mere literal sense is to understand and improve them not in that spiritual sense in which they are to be understood, but resting in the letter only; as we may observe when Christ said in St. John, 6th chapter, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you;" "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day;" "These things said he in the synagogue as he taught in Capernaum;" "Many therefore of his disciples when they heard this, said, this is a hard saying, who can hear it? Christ said, doth this offend you?"—And informed them he did not mean that they should eat his human flesh, and drink his blood literally, but he was to be understood in a spiritual sense. He informed them "it is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, the words I speak unto you they are spirit and life." Some have since misunderstood him, and, to this day, misunderstand this piece of scripture; and have from thence introduced the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation, that after the words of consecration, the bread and wine are the real body and blood of Christ. So some adhere only to the letter of the word and expound the law of God in a mere literal sense. It seems the apostle Paul, before his conversion, understood it so.—Read the 7th chapter of Romans, from the 6th to the end of the 13th verse. Paul was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a doctor of the law; yet, while in his unregenerate state, knew not the spiritual meaning of the law of God, (I mean the holy or moral law) and no doubt he spake by experience when he says, (as I wrote to you from I Cor. ii. 14) "But the natural man received not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." By the natural man, I conceive, the apostle meant the unregenerate man: yea, with the highest degree of human teaching and knowledge without he is taught of God, by his word and spirit, he cannot truly understand the things of the spirit of God; and therefore they are, as I say, misapplied, mangled and made havoc of. Faith is, by some, only held as a bare assent that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. None do truly believe that, but by the Holy Ghost.
You still will continue to maintain the doctrine of Universal Salvation, by those texts, which I said you spake at the grave with such an emphasis; if they are to be understood only in a literal sense as they are expressed, I can quote as many or more spoken by Christ and his apostles which will contradict them in their literal sense: Christ says, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Then shall he say unto them on his left hand, depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me and shall die in your sins: whither I go ye cannot come." John viii. 21, 24, "I said therefore unto you that ye shall die in your sins; for if ye believe not that I am he ye shall die in your sins." With respect to that text you quote from John xii. 32, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." It is, I conceive, explained by Christ himself in John iii. 14, 15, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." By Christ being lifted on the cross the way of salvation is to be preached to all men; but it is only those that believe who will not perish and have eternal life, according to the foregoing scriptures I have quoted from Mark xvi. 16, and Mat. xxv. 41, 46. I could quote many more scriptures spoken by our Lord himself and explained by him; and I hope, sir, you will allow our Lord to be the best expositor of his own word. I conceive you think you have got a mighty argument when you mention the apostle Peter, who had a vision which instructed him in his duty to preach the gospel to the Gentiles; but remember, Peter says, "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him." Then he began to preach the gospel to Cornelius and his friends; he preached Christ to them; he preached Jesus and the resurrection; he shows he is ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and the dead; and says, "To him give all the prophets witness that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Did he say that every individual of the human race would be saved? No such thing! And though he had further light concerning the Gentiles, he never, as I can find, preached Universal Salvation, but to the contrary. Read his epistles, first and second, particularly 2d epistle, 2d chapter from 1st to the end of the 9th verse. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation; and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment, to be punished;" not to be liberated! Read 3d chapter, 7th verse, "But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." Peter wrote these epistles after he had further light with respect to the Gentiles' having the gospel preached unto them.