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Home arrow Griffin's History arrow Debate on Foreign Missions-Chapter 26
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Written by Potter/Yates   



The first thing I want to call your attention to is Brother Yates’ manner of making a wholesale sweep of any thing by an assertion. Now, he is a big man. He insinuates that I do not know much about the his­tory of civilization, and I do the best I can. I would like to know something about it. Why does he not present an author besides himself? Can any of you account for it? Do you know why he made that stroke in telling us the origin of Greek civilization, about my mistake, and that I did not know any better when I took that position? How much better do we know it now? Why, we have Brother Yates’ word for it, and of course we all believe it. He did not tell us what historian to read. Does he think we can progress very fast? Again, he accuses me of something that I am not guilty of, in comparing the Grecian civilization to the civilization of Christianity, in putting it on a level with it. That is a mistake. I did not do that—but to show that people were intuitively in favor of education and the elevation of the people, where those people who had the best civilization were willing to give it to others. The history that I read, or that I have read— and I do not know what other one to quote; Brother Yates does not tell me what one—informs us that Egypt continued to pour forth her colonies into Greece to educate them, and to lift them up from a low state of bar­barity into a state in which they were; that Athens— that great city of learning, the fruits of which are such men as Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and others of the great philosophers—was the product of that great col­onization. Now, I do not pretend to say that was half as good as the civilization caused by Christianity. but it certainly bettered the situation of the Greeks. Broth­er Yates will not say that it did not. They were better off after they received that instruction than they were before they received it. He has not questioned that at Mr. Hence it is not education that I am here to oppose, and I must repeat that in every speech. It is not the preaching of the gospel that I am here to oppose, it is not civilization that I am here to oppose, it is not the ennobling of man that I am here to oppose; I am here to oppose that doctrine which says that the preaching of the gospel and a knowledge of the Bible are abso­lutely essential to salvation. Now, if Brother Yates says it is, there is an issue between us; but if he says it is not, he contradicts the majority of the missionary advocates of today, and goes back on what he has already stated. That is the issue, and what is the use of talking about any thing else? The people understand it, and I would like for him to understand it.

Another thing he said about those martyrs yesterday. He said I said they were Baptists. That is a mistake. I said there was a number of different denominations among them, without him asking me to say it. I admitted all the time that there was a number of different sects pr denominations among them, but that the min­istry of the Church, whatever it was, under which, during all the years these martyrs were gathered to­gether, worked anterior to the institution known now as the Foreign Missionary Society. That is what I said. He admits that there were some Baptists among them and I did not ask him to do that. He admits it. I did not say there were none besides Baptists. He said yesterday there were Lutherans and Presbyterians; that is what he said they were. I wanted him to prove it. I do not see how there could be so many Lu­therans and Presbyterians so early in the Reformation, because this persecution took place at the beginning of the Reformation—so says the book we have both read, and which we agree is good. He said it was the fruit of the Foreign Mission spirit. I want him to prove that. I presume we are to take his word for it. That is the best we have, and we will have to do just the best we can, and that is all. He says again that I told him this morning that he said it would take him six days to prove this proposition. I asked him if he could prove it in a day, and he did not say whether he could or not. I asked him if he tho tight it would take him six days, and he did not say. He wanted to debate it six days. That is what I said this morning. I asked him; I do not say he answered it, and he did not at all. He accused me of saying that he said it would take him six days to prove it. I wanted to know, when it took him four days to define it, how long it would take him to prove it. That is all there is of that. These are merely mistakes. I do not feel disposed to charge them as any thing else but mistakes. I know I am a­ble to make errors. I am not perfect. If any of my brethren think that I am not liable to errors they are mistaken; hut I think they, the Old Baptists, are as far from being mistaken as any others. I may be mistaken in saying on Monday he said the heathen that did the best they could, with the light they had, would be saved. My honest impression is that he said it. I took the note that way at the time, and thought that it was on Monday instead of Thursday. I would not contend a moment for it. He can take it back if he wishes, if he did say so. It is not a question of veracity, or at least I did not understand it so. Now, let us debate. Let us talk about the thing we differ on.

I have another note here. He said the potter spoken of in the 9th chapter of Romans was not God. I want to read a little in the 9th chapter of Romans. Let us read a little from that. Potter and clay are both men, and of course we do not object to reading a little about that. Brother Yates does not object to hearing his name, and I do not. I want to read it also because if he and I are there, then I have the advantage; if not, I can have the advantage of what it teaches, so that in either case the potter has the power over the clay in that text. Sometimes clay needs controlling, needs to know somebody has power over it. We all need that. I am clay as well as potter. Let us notice the 9th chap­ter of Romans just a moment to see if we can learn any thing from it. Brother Yates and I, if we live to be as old as some men, will have to live a good while, and both of us can learn, perhaps. I could, I think. Now, let us see what this text says, beginning with the 14th verse: “What shall we say then? Is there un­righteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses”—who says to Moses? God. I want a close examination of this text—“I”—who? God—“will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Now, if those pronouns do not have God for their antecedent, I want Brother Yates to tell us so. I want him to no­tice that. He is a scholar. “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up”—“I”—who? Brother Yates, I want you to be particular on this—“that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” Who is that but God? “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he”—God—“will he hardeneth.” If that is not right, let Brother Yates tell it. We want to know. “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he”—God—“yet find fault? For who bath resisted his”—God’s—“will? Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” Then he brings in the figure of the potter and the clay. The potter represents somebody, and so does the clay. I said that God was represented by the potter in that text. I did not say the potter was God; but I said God was represented by the potter in that figure. Now, if that is not true, then I get the wrong understanding in that connection, and I would love for Brother Yates to tell me how it is. I never heard it contradicted in my life, although I have heard a great many old persons of different denominations, but I never heard it otherwise explained until today. And it is constantly spoken of in that way. I am learning. Perhaps if I were to stay with Brother Yates, I would progress a little. “Hath not the potter power over clay of the same lump”—not a lump of clay and a lump of wax, as he illustrated this morning; the same lump of what? of clay—“to make one vessel”—who makes the vessel? Why, the potter does; that is his trade—“to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishon­or?” Now, has the potter that power? I quoted this text to show his authority; and I stated, when I intro­duced this text the other evening, that the lump of clay was Adam’s fallen and ruined race, already sinful, al­ready condemned, already undone; having already for­feited every claim they had upon the Divine Being, by their own wicked actions, they had incurred the divine vengeance of God’s just and holy law, and were exposed to his divine vengeance. That lump of guilty clay God has the right to do as he pleases with. If that is not it, I fail to understand the apostle here. I introduced that to prove that God had a right to do as he pleased.

Now, I want to notice another text to prove that he does have that right with guilty man; has a right to do as he pleases with his own. I call your attention to Matthew xx., beginning at the first of the chapter, and I will read fifteen or sixteen verses: “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vine­yard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning with the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had re­ceived it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am good?”

Here the Saviour taught the doctrine that God had a right to do just as he pleased with his own; yet he rep­resents the case here as though the lord of that vine­yard had made a distinction between men. He had had some of them work all day for a penny, and some only an hour; and yet he claimed the right to give them all the same wages. Now, if that is not what Brother Yates is complaining about, because God treats man just as he pleases, and condemns the one and saves the other, I do not understand him.

I want to make this illustration: Suppose that each of these two brothers sitting here owed me $50. This man owes me $50, and so does that one. The debts are not connected with each other at all; each man owes his own individual debt, and I have each man’s note for $50. They are just debts, contracts of their own; they are men capable of transacting their own affairs. I ask every person in this house, whose prop­erty are those notes? Every man says they are mine. Then, I have a right to do as I please with them, if they belong to me. They are my property. Very well, if I see fit I can stick them in the fire and burn them up, or I can take them and give them up to the persons who executed the notes. I can do as I please with them. Is not that true? Yes. Well, if I can do as I please with them, cannot I go to this brother and give him his note, and say, “Here, I forgive you the whole debt?” Have not I that right? Everybody says, Yes. What difference does that make to this man? He still owes me $50, and I still have his note. Have I a right to do as I please with it now? It does not make his debt any harder to pay because I forgave that one. It does not make him any deeper in debt, and it does not make his debt any the less just. Hence I have a right to go to him and demand that he pay it, so far as right is concerned. Then, I have a right to make a distinc­tion if I want to. It is nobody’s business in the world, not even his business, why I forgave that man his debt. But as we are on that subject, and the justice of the matter has been brought up, I want to notice Brother Yates’ illustration about this that he gave the other day. He illustrated it in this way: That a man sees a couple a children on a railroad track and a train coming, and the man has the power to take them off the track, and takes one away and leaves the other, in order to show his power. At the same time he had the power to save both of them. Brother Yates says that man is a fiend. That is what he says; he is a fiend. If that is true, has God the power to save everybody? Will Brother Yates tell us that God has not the power to save every sinner that lives in the world? Does he save all of them? He must save some of them and leave the others, when he has the power to save all, or else he must save all of them, or else he saves none. Do you see where his illustration goes to? He says if he saves some and not the others, he compares him to a fiend, if he has the power to save all. Does he save any? Does he save all? Has he the power?

I want to notice Brother Yates’ beautiful arguments against the doctrine of election and predestination; his idea about justice, his idea about right, his idea about the character of the Divine Being. He does not believe that God saves all the race. No, sir. But be believes that he saves some of them. Yes. Did he not have the power to save all of them? Yes. Then, what is he like? Why, he is like Brother Yates’ man, accord­ing to his own doctrine. He had the power. Let us not get in a hurry. I do not know but what Brother Yates is a Universalist, and he cannot get out of it in that way. He had me accused of having an article in his Confession of Faith that was not there, and he ac­knowledged that he was mistaken, and that it was there.

MR. YATES: It was a quotation.

MR. POTTER: Yes, a quotation. I showed him his mistake, and that was all right; he acknowledged it, and before I showed it to him he was in such a hurry that he committed himself on it. First, he said if it was there the brethren in getting tip the Confession, he presumed, had made a mistake in getting that text—it was not the text they aimed to get. Next, he said on that text that it proved Universalism. That is what he said. Why? Because the Saviour said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” That is the text our Cumberland brethren have selected to prove the work of the Holy Spirit in teaching men their need of salvation and their lost estate, and inclin­ing them to come to Christ. Hence I selected that as the one that he called on me for. Remember, now, that he had called on me just to produce one text to prove the salvation of anybody without the gospel, without truth, and I did not have it to do, because his brethren had already selected it, and I simply cited him to it, and that was it; and he said it proved Universal­ism. Now he admits it was a Presbyterian text, se­lected for that purpose. Now, what have we? A Universalist? That is better than the doctrine he was preaching this morning; infinitely better than the damning of all the heathen where the gospel does not go. That is the biggest jump I have seen a man take for a long time. It reminds me of an Irishman who was going to get on a steamboat. It was shoving off just as he was coming to it, and he ran and attempted to jump on, but it had moved out, so he made a big jump and fell. He scratched around awhile and then got up, rubbed his head, and looked at the boat, which was then a hundred yards from the bank, and said, “No wonder I fell, jumping that far.” A long jump. Now, a man making such jumps as that is likely to meet with some misfortunes, but Brother Yates did it. He said it was Universalism. It was the text that I introduced to prove that people were saved where there was no gospel. I introduced that text especially because the Cumberlands had cited it in their Confes­sion of Faith to prove that people would be saved where there was no gospel—that is, without means di­rectly, and without means. Now, if I had made a mistake, had cited the wrong verse, Universalism would have been saddled on me by Brother Yates: but as I did not make the mistake, and it was his, the sad­dle fits him the best, and as he has put it on I propose to help him buckle the girth, and he must wear it, and any man that wants to ride a Universalist colt from here can just ride him. Does that text teach Univer­salist doctrine? Brother Yates says it does. It is se­lected by him and his brethren to prove their doctrine. Now, he had better just simply take all that back. There is one honorable way to get out of difficulties, but human pride will not allow men to take that way every time. That way is just simply to back out. Ev­erybody does not like to do that. He had better.

He says I accused the Confession of contradicting itself. Well, he is mistaken. The Confession does not contradict itself that I know of, but Brother Yates contradicts the Confession. That is what I was arguing. Let us see whether it does or not. I do not want peo­ple to take my word for it, but I want them to be their own judges. I am here to talk to intelligent people who are as capable as I am of judging matters, and many of them more so. I put the question to Brother Yates for two days, in every speech almost, in this house, asking him if he believed that the missionaries in the foreign fields would be the means and instru­mentalities of the salvation of souls that would not he saved without them. He finally, yesterday evening, said, “Yes; they are the means and instrumentalities in the salvation of souls that must sink down to hell if the missionaries do not get there.” And in addition to that he turned to me and challenged me to prove the salva­tion of a solitary individual without the truth. Now, put the two together, and he does not only say that souls have been saved by missionaries that would not have been saved without them, but he positively says that no person is saved without them, challenging me to find a case. There he and the Confession differ. The contradiction is between Brother Yates and the Confession, not in the Confession at all. Now, let us see again how this Confession does read. I do not want to read any thing only what is here; but what is here I want to read. It was published for that; was it not, brethren? These books were published for good, to teach and instruct, and if the people do not know what is in them, they are published for them to learn: “God the Father, having sent forth his Son Jesus Christ as a propitiation for the sins of the world, does most graciously vouchsafe a manifestation of the Holy Spirit with the same intent to every man.” Brother Yates has been arguing the whole week that “every man means the whole race. Take this definition of “every man,” and we have a manifestation of the Holy Spirit vouchsafed to all the race by the God of heaven, not on conditions, but unconditionally, and just as truly as Jesus died for them. That is what the Confession says. I did not make this. It is a tolerably respecta­ble document, and I have nothing to say against it. Now, I will read the next section: “The Holy Spirit, operating through the written word”—and you will remember that I admitted this morning, for the pres­ent, that that may be the present means. I admitted that. That is all Brother Yates claims—that the preach­ing or reading of the Bible is God’s ordinary means through which to operate with his Holy Spirit. That is all out Presbyterian brethren claim. But in addition to that, this teaches “and through such other means as God in his wisdom may choose, or directly without means. Without means, without the Bible, without the gospel, or any other means, for it says, “without means.” Well, what does it do, then, without means? “So moves upon the hearts of men as to enlighten, re­prove, and convince them of sin and of their lost es­tate, and their need of salvation, and by so doing in­cline them to come to Christ.” That is good, that is wholesome.

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