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Home arrow Griffin's History arrow Debate on Foreign Missions-Chapter 8
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Written by Potter/Yates   



We have been interested in another happy and eloquent speech. Brother Yates seems to be in as fine humor as ever. He believes in final perseverance. That is good doctrine. I believe in that too. By patience and perseverance the rat ate in two the cable. I want to pay some respect to the speech, because it is a good speech; but if any of the terms of the proposition were mentioned in the whole speech, they have slipped my mind. However, let us accept the speech as good, able, eloquent, and all that, and interesting. The subject of the commission I mention first.

He asserted yesterday morning, in the introduction of this discussion, the very thing that all modern or foreign missionaries assert—that is, that the commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” was delivered to the Church. I want to know of him why he said so, what Bible authority he had for saying any thing of the kind, when it was addressed to the eleven, as the text in both cases; Matthew and Mark, plainly and clearly state. Now be gets up and undertakes to give the reason by saying the Communion was instituted in the presence of the apostles only. If he is satisfied with that kind of proof, all right. I leave this audience to judge whether that establishes the fact, whether the gospel commission was delivered to the Church, ordained and unordained, male and female, old and young, rich and poor, weak and strong, instead of being delivered to the apostles and their successors. I leave that with you.

He made an improvement in representing my position on the subject of Romans i. 20, he referred to the report, found out what I did say; that is what I claimed this morning, that if Nature taught the Gentiles anciently that there was a God, why does not Nature teach the heathen the same? They were without excuse then; why are they not now, under the same circumstances?

Then he refers us to Matthew ix. 36, where Jesus, seeing the multitude, had compassion on them because they fainted, and were scattered abroad as sheep going astray, and intimates that this sympathy of Jesus was, the same sympathy or compassion that the missionaries have for the heathen that takes them into the great mission work. That is his effort, I suppose, to prove the identity of the love of the Saviour and the love of the missionary to the sinner. I don’t know but according to their own language they love the heathen better than Jesus did. He failed to get us this institution called the Foreign Missionary Board for the salvation of the heathen, as well as he loved them. He said nothing about it, left no such instruction. Our missionary brethren say the heathen could not be saved without it. Hence they love the heathen so well that they have got up this expediency that they say is so essential to the salvation of the heathen I believe they love the heathen best, according to their own language.

I said that the seed did not prepare the heart. He does not say it does, but he asks what does. Perhaps I do not differ from Brother Yates as to what the seed was.

He said it was the word of God, and I believe it is the gospel preached. Perhaps we do not differ on that. If the seed does not prepare the heart, did it do it in the parable? The parable said that some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air caught it up. Did that change the heart? Did it not leave it just as it was? The seed that fell in stony places and that that fell among thorns—did it change the heart? Brother Yates did not say yes. He would not come out and say yes. But he says, if it does not, what does? That is plain.

That is the Scripture—Matthew xiii. Read it for yourself. I shall not spend much time on it.

But as he asked me one question, I must answer it. I am going to answer it in the language of Mr. Rice, a Presbyterian, in the Campbell and Rice Debate, page 628. Mr. Rice says: “We believe and teach that in conversion and sanctification there is an influence of the Spirit in addition to that of the Word” (notice that), “and distinct from it—an influence without which the arguments and motives of the gospel would never convert and sanctify one of Adam’s ruined race. Now, whether Brother Yates will accept Brother Rice or not, I will adopt that as my language in answer to his question. I adopt it as my own. If he wants to reply to it, he can reply to Brother Rice through me. “We further believe, although the Word is employed as an instrument of conversion and sanctification where it can be used, God has never confined himself to means and instrumentalities where they cannot be employed.” The latter part of that clause I accept—that he has “never confined himself to means and instrumentalities where they cannot be employed.” Can they be employed among the heathen where the gospel never was, and there never was any Bible, and never was any preacher? Then the Lord does “not confine himself to means and instrumentalities” in these places, Mr. Rice says, and I don’t believe he does.

One thing more I want to notice; that is, Brother Yates says wise men change. We have been talking about the revision of the Presbyterian doctrine. He says himself it has been revised! I don’t know any thing about it. I have not seen his new revision of the Confession of Faith, but I produced one that he says looks old. It looks old because it is old. He says wise men change; and I presume from that, our Presbyterian brethren are wise enough to change, and Brother Yates belongs to that class. I want to know whether, before the change, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church stood upon the truth, and if they did, did they stand upon it after the change? Now, as Brother Yates is one of these wise men that change, perhaps he is wise enough to give us some light on that subject, and tell us whether the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was founded at the start upon the truth, and if it was, and has changed its doctrines since then, is it founded upon the truth today? Brother Yates, answer that question in your next speech. It would be a great accommodation to us who are under the impression that principles never change. God’s truth is as unchangeable as himself.

On the subject of election I will tell you what the Cumberland Presbyterians once believed. I don’t know whether they do now or not. If Brother Yates holds them to it, I don’t hold them to it. Reformation is commendable if the man finds he is wrong. It is the very noblest trait of the human character to retract when they find out they are wrong. Here is what they said, as contained in their Confession of Faith-Chapter VIII. Article I: “it has pleased God to choose the Lord Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, to be the mediator between God and man, a Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of his Church, and heir of all things, and Judge of the world, unto whom he promised a seed “—remember, it was God who promised the Son a seed—” and to be by him redeemed, called by his Word and Spirit, justified by his grace, sanctified and glorified.” That is what the Cumberland Presbyterians used to believe. I don’t know whether they do now or not.

Now, if God promised Jesus Christ a seed before the world began, he knew Where they were, and knew where they would be, and he is going to make good his promise. He made every provision necessary for the accomplishment of the work, and our Presbyterian brethren say that he did make the promise. The prophet says, “God is not a man that he should he; neither the son of man that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath, he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Having promised his Son a seed, then, to be by him in time redeemed, and not only redeemed, but glorified, will the Father fulfill that promise? I answer, Yes, sir, he will fulfill it.

Again, he tells us that missionism did not commence as recently as 1792. It originated anterior to that date. It was in the seventeenth century. Very well. If it originated in the seventeenth century, it did not originate before Pentecost, nor very shortly afterward; it was nearly seventeen hundred years afterward, according to his own futures—at least sixteen hundred years afterward, according to the earliest figures he has given us. Then it did not originate with the Saviour nor the apostles, according to Brother Yates’ own showing. If it did not, it is not authorized in the Scriptures and owned of God. We have no right to believe any thing is authorized of God that is not given any account of in his Word. If it is not of God, it is of man, and that is the issue between us, according to Brother Yates’ own heading of his article, “Is the Foreign Mission work of God or man. Now I propose to present an objection to this, and give you some Bible reasons for my objection. I believe in the salvation of more people than some people do. The platform of salvation on which I stand is broader than the platform on which some others stand. I want to say now that I present an objection that has already been hinted at. I object to the Foreign Mission work on the ground that it makes a misuse of the gospel, in that it makes the gospel an offer of salvation, and therefore essential to salvation. The mission work makes the publication of the gospel, or the proclamation of it to the people, an offer of salvation, and not only so, but essential to salvation; and that is the reason we hear Brother Yates and other missionaries talk about capturing souls in heathen lands for Jesus, and working for Jesus. Let us see if I am correct in charging that on the missionaries. For proof of this objection I quote from a tract published by the American Baptist Missionary Union.

Pardon me; I want to notice right here one more thing that I had forgotten. I want Brother Yates to bring us that Baptist almanac he talks about. We want to know the author of it. We want to know something about that Baptist almanac. He tells us what our strength was a few years ago by that almanac, and what it is today. If any of our brethren ever published any Baptist almanac, or any thing of that kind, I don’t know any thing about it. The missionaries do once in awhile, I think, publish an almanac, yearly. The Mission Baptists, I think, some of them, do so, and perhaps other denominations. We divorced the Mission Baptists long ago, and we have no communication or communion with them, and have not had for a long time. We would not receive their immersion any quicker than we would Brother Yates’ sprinkling or pouring. The people already know that. We are not accountable for what the Baptist missionaries say Benedict, and other historians, stigmatize us as Hard. Shells, and every thing ugly; and he said before his type-plates would be circulated over this country, the Hard-Shells would be numbered among the things of the past. He was a false prophet. Perhaps people who have that kind of a feeling toward us have been getting up this almanac.

I want to show you that the missionaries do hang the salvation of the heathen upon their hearing of the gospel. Let us hear what they say. And when I quote from Missionary Baptist authority, it is just as good as Presbyterian authority; from the very fact that the proposition embraces all Protestant denominations who are engaged in the Foreign Mission work—just as good. This proposition is not denominational, and these Missionary Baptists are not my brethren. They are Brother Yates’ in this discussion. This congregation understands that. Now what do they say? In a tract published by the American Baptist Missionary Union, entitled “The True Test,” we read the following:

“Christian friends, we have no fires of martyrdom now to test our fidelity to Jesus Christ, but we are not left without a test. God is testing us all continually; testing the measure of our faith, of our love, of our devotedness to his Son, by the presence of eight hundred million of the heathen world. It is a tremendous test —so real, so practical. It is no trifle, no myth, no theory, no doubtful contingency but an awful fact, that we Protestant Christians, who rejoice in our rich gospel blessings, and claim to be followers of him who gave up heavenly glory, and earthly ease, and life itself, to save these heathen, are actually surrounded by eight hundred millions of brothers and sisters who must perish in their sins unless they receive the gospel. This gospel they have never heard. This is a fact that too many forget, but a fact that none can deny, a fact which we dare not pretend to be ignorant of, a fact that ought to influence our whole Christian course from the moment of conversion.”

That is easily understood. I also quote from the Campbell—Rice debate, which teaches the same doctrine. Mr Campbell says:

“Our second argument is deduced from the fact that no living man has ever been heard of, and none can now be found, possessed of a single conception of Christianity, of one spiritual thought, feeling, or emotion, where the Bible, or some traditions from it, has not been before him. Where the Bible has not been sent, or its traditions developed, there is not one single spiritual idea, word, or action. It is all midnight; a gloom profound; utter darkness. What stronger evidence can be adduced than this most evident and indisputable fact? It weighs more than a thousand volumes of metaphysical speculations.”

That is what Mr. Campbell says. We will not stop at him further. I remember today, when I made the assertion that I did not believe the foreign missionaries, with all their operations, and zeal, and love, had been the means of converting a solitary heathen to God that would not have been converted without it, there was a snicker all over the house. It pleased our missionary friends to hear me take that position. That is where I stand. Brother Yates did not tell us they were the means of doing that. Let him do so if he wants to. Here is the issue: “Are the foreign missionaries the means of adding to the number that shall be saved?” Are they the means of increasing the number of that seed that God promised to the Son before the world began? Are they necessary in order to save that seed that God promised to the Son before the world began? I want some explanation on that. Let us hear what another missionary has to say. I now refer you to the circular letter of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, of 1806, page 426. They say:

“The following principles have given rise to Christian missions, and swayed the conduct of faithful missionaries. First, a deep conviction of the fallen state of the human race. Once, indeed, man was made in honor, but now he is in disgrace. Woe unto us that we have sinned. In our common father we have all sunk in the abyss of original defection, and are all actual offenders against the righteous God. Many have endeavored to extenuate the offenses of the heathen world. Idolaters have been represented as the untaught children of nature, whom the Supreme Being would rather pity than punish. But such are not the representations of the Holy Scriptures, the oracles of divine truth. That they who have sinned without the law will be judged without the law is admitted; but it is expressly declared that The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; that such as change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image are without excuse, and that the judgment of God is that they who commit such things are worthy of death. Who will dare to oppose his judgment to the judgment of infinite wisdom and righteousness? or who can be negative when he hears the Bible proclaim indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.”

That is missionary doctrine. Now, notice these texts of Scripture are used to prove the damnation of the heathen. They would not accept the idea that God would rather pity the poor heathen than punish them. They say that is wrong, and quote these texts to prove it. I say that is the missionary doctrine. I want to say that it limits the salvation of God; it binds him up; it shuts him out from that portion of his elect that he said should bless all nations of the earth where the Bible is not. If none are to be saved in heathen lands only on the condition that they hear, believe, and obey the gospel, then about three-fourths of the sons and daughters of Adam are sent to hell, to suffer eternal vengeance for what they are no more to be blamed for than I am because I was not born in England two hundred years ago. It shuts salvation out from a large majority of this world. I want to show you that God has made a covenant. I want to call attention now to some Scripture proofs; and I want Brother Yates .to tell us what they mean. Genesis xviii. 17, 18: “And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” How many nations of the earth art to be blessed in him? Brother Yates, tell us what nation is left out. Again, Genesis xxii. 18: “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Now here is God’s Word, it must be taken.

Whether missionary witnesses are sufficient or not, here is one that is. God said it. he that cannot he says to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Again, Genesis xii. 3, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Again, Genesis xxvi. “And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and I will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

Here was God’s covenant with Abraham long ago. That covenant embraced a seed, a people, who were not all literally Jews, fleshly descendants of Abraham. We will go to the New Testament now, and read Acts iii. 25, 26, and see what it does mean: “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth he blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Gal. iii 7, 8: “Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Now we begin to see that this seed, the children of Abraham, are the people of God, not only the Jews but they were also among the Gentiles. Gal. iii. i6: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

Then Christ, being the seed, is to bless all kindreds of the earth, which also are the seed of Abraham, Gal. iii. 29:—I will quote to prove that—”And if ye be Christ’s “—that applies to Brother Yates and me, and all Christians within the sound of my voice  today, all that live, all that ever will live, and all that ever have lived—“ If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” According to what are ye heirs? “According to the promise.” What promise? The promise of God made to Abraham. I want Brother Yates to tell us if that is not so. I challenge him to point out an heir of God under the canopy of heaven that is not an heir according to the promise made to Abraham. Go to your heathen fields, go the dark nooks and corners of the earth, and find a man that is Christ’s, that God did not promise him in his covenant that he should be his, and who is not his according to that promise. If it is according to that promise, it is not according to something else. It is not according to the energy of man, or zeal of missionaries. It does not depend upon human institutions to fulfill that promise. If God had depended upon such influences to perform that promise, which he promised at the start, they would have been embraced in the great economy of the gospel when Jesus Christ was here. Our forefathers in the primitive church would have had the benefit of all that, and when they went to preach the gospel in almost all the divisions of Asia, Europe, and Africa, they would have had the benefit of modern missionary institutions that my brother is here to defend, and to say are authorized in the Scriptures. But no; according to his own testimony, and I am a witness with Brother Yates on that, the Church had stood for over sixteen hundred years without it, and if it had, surely it was not authorized in the Scriptures.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 September 2006 )
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